Women’s basketball: Northwestern standout Amy Jaeschke preparing for another year overseas
Amy Jaeschke was drafted by the Chicago Sky out of Northwestern. Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
Updated: September 10, 2012 12:53PM
WILMETTE — Months after dealing with the disappointment of being waived by the Chicago Sky, Amy Jaeschke signed a contract with Vologda-Chevakata and flew to Russia to begin her first season of professional basketball.
But before she played her first game for Chevakata, Jaeschke broke her hand in practice. She returned home to Wilmette to have surgery, and started questioning her career path as she recovered.
“My first two outings where I tried to play professionally were cut short, so it was like, ‘Am I meant to do this? Is this a sign that I’m not meant to be playing?’ ” said Jaeschke, who was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in her junior and senior seasons at Northwestern. “But in the end I’m glad that it worked out the way it did because I loved all of my other experiences overseas.”
Once Jaeschke’s hand healed and she decided to continue playing professional basketball, her agent negotiated a deal with Jiangsu Phoenix, a professional basketball team in China.
Chinese teams are allowed to have only one American player on their rosters, making Jaeschke the only foreign-born player on a team primarily comprised of players and coaches who don’t speak English.
To complicate matters, her translator quit on Jaeschke’s first day. As a result, she was forced to lean heavily upon the two members of Jiangsu Phoenix who speak English in order to communicate with her teammates and coaches.
“Honestly I thought it would be (the most difficult thing about playing in China), but when you’re out on the court, basketball is basketball at the end of the day,” the New Trier grad said of the language barrier. “I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s just natural with what you do when you get out on the court.”
Although there were a few challenges during the 6-foot-5 center’s time in China — moving around a variety of hotel rooms and not being home for Christmas were both particularly hard — living in a different country allowed Jaeschke to experience a new culture and develop a new perspective.
“Definitely just the aspect of learning about different cultures,” she said of her favorite part of playing overseas. “China’s not a Communist country anymore, but it definitely still feels like it. I learned about how they don’t have the same types of freedoms as we do and learned to appreciate what I have through living in these other places. I learned a lot about myself and where I come from by living somewhere else.”
After averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds in her four months in China, Jaeschke signed a contract with MBK Ruzomberok in Slovakia. The contract lasted a month and a half, and after again averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds, she returned to Wilmette in May.
Jaeschke, 23, has spent the past three months preparing for the upcoming basketball season. She doesn’t know where she will play at this point, but her agent is negotiating with clubs overseas. There is a good chance Jaeschke will know where she is playing within the next month.
Although she has dealt with adversity and disappointment in the first year of her professional basketball, the enjoyment playing basketball abroad has shifted her professional goals.
“Honestly, when I first decided I was going to play professional basketball, I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do it for two or three years and that will be it,’ ” Jaeschke said. “But now, I want to do it for as long as my body will allow me to do it. I just have so much fun playing and I can’t believe somebody’s paying me to do this.”