The Breakthrough

Carondelet (Calif.) center Jayne Appel can score with the best of them, but it's her defense that makes her one of the nation's top ballers.

This article appears in the January/February 2006 edition of SchoolSports magazine.

Joe Appel suffers a daily disappointment when it comes to his daughter, Carondelet senior Jayne Appel. It has nothing to do with her character, her scholarship or her athleticism. It's the towels. Bath towels. They're strewn across the floor of her room like some hippie terrycloth carpet.

"They drive him crazy, and I always leave them all over the floor," says Appel, a 6-foot-4 center who's rated the nation's No. 5 girls' hoop recruit in the Class of 2006 by SchoolSports and also played four seasons of water polo for Carondelet. "Between two-a-day water polo practices and basketball, there are usually a lot of them lying around."

At the end of the day, Joe really only has himself to blame. He's the guy who enrolled Jayne in youth soccer, swimming, basketball and even Camp Fire USA, for Pete's sake. It's not entirely Jayne's fault she's had to take so many showers.

Those towels may raise dad's blood pressure, but they've proven to be magic. The piled-up product of years of workouts will carry Appel to Stanford next year on a full-ride hoop scholarship. They have elevated her to All-American status and helped her earn a ticket to the prestigious 2005 USA Basketball Women's Youth Development Festival last summer.

Joe Appel shouldn't bemoan those towels. He should bronze them.

"It's hard to believe this is all happening," says Appel, who averaged 21.4 points, 13.3 rebounds and 6.3 blocks per game as a junior while leading the Cougars to the NorCal Division II finals. "My dad and I were watching Tennessee play Stanford on TV recently and he said, ‘That will be you out there next year.' It didn't click at first. That a year from now I'll be asked to guard one of the greats like (Tennessee forward) Candace Parker. I can't believe it's coming up that soon. I hope I rise to the occasion."

Appel, who will turn 18 on May 14, sells herself short by expressing even the slightest self-doubt. A Parade and Street & Smith's All-American and an adidas Top Ten Camp All-Star in 2005, Appel has already matched up against some of the best players in the country. Heck, she grew up facing talents like former Oakland Tech and current Cal freshman center Devanei Hampton as well as former Piedmont and current Oklahoma freshman twin posts Courtney and Ashley Paris.

And as one of just 34 girls nationwide to compete at last summer's Youth Development Festival, Appel ranked sixth in rebounding with 7.4 per game and first in blocks with 2.6 per game despite averaging just 17 minutes per game in five contests.

"The parent of a girl in our program said, ‘Jayne forgives a lot of sins on the court,' and I think that's true of her game," says Carondelet head coach Margaret Gartner, 42, now in her 15th year. "You can get beat defensively and still know you're OK if Jayne is behind you with her shot-blocking ability. Bad defense becomes offense for us much of the time."

It goes beyond that. Appel's post presence is so dominant that Gartner sometimes assigns her to guard two players. That's right. One-on-two by design.

"When we play against St. Mary's of Stockton's Jacki Gemelos, we double her, cover the shooters on each wing and ask Jayne to guard the two players on either side of the key that remain," says Gartner, who coached the Cougars to their first Division II state title when Appel was a sophomore. "I can never get over the amount of ground she can cover. She can stop someone in transition defense, then recover and block someone else's shot across court. The way she sees the court to find the open shooter is incredible, too. Especially for someone who can score at will. We still have to tell her to shoot more."

Another healthy suggestion might be for Appel to expect just a smidge less from herself. After scoring 24 points and ripping down a career-high 23 rebounds in a game earlier this season, Appel left the court perturbed at her poor play.

"I hadn't seen the stat sheet yet," says Appel, who averaged 18.6 points and 14.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore. "I put a lot of pressure on myself and I didn't even think I'd played well that game. It's amazing how your perspective can be altered. But knowing that people expect more of you makes you want to prove yourself."

Appel doesn't, however, have to work at proving she hates losing. There's no approaching her after a defeat unless she's had a shower and a meal. She gets peeved at Gartner when the coach tries to stack lineups against her to make team scrimmages more competitive. And Appel even keeps a newspaper clipping from last year's NorCal final loss tacked to her bedroom wall for motivation.

Part of Appel's tenacity stems from being the only girl among four children in her family — her trio of brothers consists of former College Park football player Mike, 22; former De La Salle basketball player Tommy, 20; and current De La Salle freshman hoopster Nate, 14.

"The older brothers beat up on me and I beat up on Nate, so it was a rough enough upbringing," says Appel. "Our games didn't end until someone got hurt. That's how we knew games were over. It definitely helped me in the long run."

Those rewards will soon be reaped by Stanford, where Appel will be asked to elevate her game again to shine in the Pac-10. For her part, Gartner doesn't expect that to be a problem.

"There's no doubt she'll compete right away," says Gartner, whose team had won three straight Bay Valley Athletic League titles entering this season. "She's going to have to raise her game, but she will. At the very least, she will block shots and rebound from Day 1. If she's not in every box score next year, it'll mean she's injured. She doesn't like to lose, and those players belong on the floor."

Unlike, say, towels.

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