Jeanette Pohlen Gets Second Chance At Wearing A USA Jersey
June 22, 2009 - Colorado Springs, Colo.
Jeanette Pohlen (Stanford / Brea, Calif.) first donned a USA practice jersey two summers ago at the 2007 USA U19 World Championship Team Trials. A Stanford-bound freshman at the time, Pohlen did not make the cut for the 12-member roster. Two years later, however, Pohlen again is on the verge of representing her country in a USA jersey. As one of 15 finalists for the 2009 USA Women's World University Games Team, she is doing all that she can to earn her red, white and blue jersey.
In the two years since Pohlen first visited the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., she has built an impressive college resume with the Cardinal, including a 68-9 overall record and two Final Four appearances. Despite missing the cut for the '07 USA U19 team, Pohlen characterizes her 2007 experience as a valuable one.
'I definitely think it was something I used as motivation,' Pohlen said. 'Just being invited was a great honor, but seeing the level of competition that I needed to be at to make the team really motivated to me, so that when I went home, I knew what I needed to work on. I knew what I needed to do in order to improve, and a lot of it was about my college team and how I could help contribute to that team too. I think it kind of went hand-in-hand. I wanted to improve for my college team and then hopefully earn a chance to try out for another USA team.'
Pohlen got her second chance May 14-17, at the USA Basketball Women's World University Games Team Trials. Following four days of drills and scrimmages, USA Basketball named 14 finalists for the 2009 Women's World University Games Team on May 18. The finalists roster included Pohlen and two of her Stanford teammates, Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen. Appel was forced to withdraw from competition due to a knee surgery, but Pedersen and Pohlen are both fighting for one of 12 roster spots on the USA World University Games Team.
Pohlen credits the Stanford University coaches, and her Stanford teammates, for much of her improvement over the past two seasons. And it doesn't hurt that Stanford head coach Tara Vanderveer is an eight-time USA Basketball head coach with four gold medals, including the 1996 Olympic gold medal.
'Once we got invited to the tryouts, she talked to us and told us different things we needed to do to stand out - work hard and play smart. Her and the whole coaching staff were just behind us one hundred percent. I think the best part about the Stanford program is they are always helping their players to improve. I mean, you come in as a freshman and you might not be good at one thing, and that might be your best skill at the end of your college career just because they focus on your weaknesses, and they try to help you improve.'
Though very successful, Pohlen's experience at Stanford has been anything but easy. Aside from adjusting to a college schedule and the intensity of college basketball, Pohlen shifted positions as well. From playing a three as a freshman, to a two guard to start the 2008-09 season, to the point guard position midway through the '08-09 Pacific-10 Conference schedule.
'I was originally the two guard at the beginning of the year, and JJ Hones got hurt,' Pohlen explained. 'From there it was kind of a transition. I actually didn't start playing the point guard, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude did. And then I think about half way through the Pac-10 season, they said, 'alright, you are going to be our point guard for the rest of the season.'
'Some people might not know this, but I did play point guard in high school and on my club team before coming to college, so it wasn't like I had never played point guard before. But it was definitely a major transition from high school to college obviously. The game is quicker; you have more things to think about. I just think I had a lot of help making that transition. The coaches were very supportive with me and didn't get too frustrated with me when I would make mistakes, and my teammates really helped me out as well. Overall, it just helped that my teammates were behind me 100 percent.'
Pohlen said it's not just her game that has evolved; she has grown off the court as well. With two college seasons under her belt, she now knows most of the girls she is competing with, which makes the training camp experience about more than just basketball.
'I know a lot more girls now,' Pohlen said. 'All the girls are great. It's fun to talk with them and hear what it's like at their schools and their experiences. And what their thoughts are on everything. It's just a great group of girls to hang out with. It's been a lot of fun.'
In the next few days, however, the roster will be trimmed to the 12 team members, and three women will head home rather than to the 2009 World University Games, which will be played July 1-11 in Belgrade, Serbia.
'It's kind of like we are not talking about it at all,' Pohlen said. 'We all want to be here. We are all trying our hardest to make it. We would all like to play together, so we are hoping for the best and trying not to dwell on it.'
The pressure to make the final roster can be intense, but Pohlen said she is drawing on Stanford's 2009 success and remaining focused on her goal.
'It definitely gave me a lot of confidence playing all throughout the NCAA Tournament and helping lead our team into the Final Four, but it wouldn't have happened if I didn't have the teammates I do,' Pohlen added. 'But it did give me a lot of confidence coming here for USA Basketball knowing that I can play with the top teams in the country. Coming back, I knew I had improved a lot, and I know that helped me mentally. My main goal was just to come here and work my hardest and show that I am very determined.'
Four days into training, Pohlen said she feels like she has done that - for the most part. Like most elite athletes, Pohlen is a tough judge.
'I think I'm doing ok. Obviously, there are always things to work on,' Pohlen said. 'I'm never really satisfied with how I play, but for the most part I feel like I'm trying my hardest, working my hardest, trying to show that I want to be here and do the little things. I'm not somebody that is a flashy player that is going to wow the crowd. But I want to be here, and I want to make this team. That's the goal.'