For Jacki Gemelos, the WNBA bubble was about much more than basketball

During a hot summer day in mid-August, halfway through the WNBA regular season, the Connecticut Sun players were relaxing by the pool at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. At 4-7, the Sun had just begun to turn around their season after losing the first five games. A dip in the water and a game of UNO was a welcome respite for everyone on the team, including Jacki Gemelos.

Gemelos, 31, was feeling bittersweet about her past month in the WNBA — a goal she has been chasing since she first picked up a basketball at age seven. She was thrilled to be on a WNBA roster, her first since 2015, but confused why she was barely getting any playing time, averaging 4:57 in just six games with the Sun.

Still, Gemelos had grown close to her teammates. She wanted to do her part to support coach Curt Miller and his staff and help the team win — in whatever way that might be.

“When I had first got there, Curt put me in at the end of our first game against Washington. I hit two 3s right away. I felt like I was gaining momentum. And then I had this little knee thing and it set me back a week, and from that point on, I feel like he just saw me as a player he wasn’t going to play,” Gemelos said. “But it is what it is. I think I accepted my role in terms of, I’m going to be a great teammate, I’m going to work hard, I’m not going to be a problem for them. I’m going to be a vocal leader, in my own way, in the locker room. And just being that piece to the puzzle that makes things operate smoothly, be coachable, support the coaching staff.”

As Gemelos sat laughing and joking with her teammates, tossing her UNO cards into the center of the pile, Miller walked over and asked if he could speak with her. Gemelos nodded and picked up her phone. She noticed that Miller had tried to call her. At that moment, she felt ill.

“I’m thinking as I’m walking over there, is this dude about to cut me? Like, there’s no way,” she said. “And then he sits down and his voice is shaking, and he’s really nervous. And he’s like, ‘I have to waive you today.’”

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