Being the youngest of three children has built-in disadvantages. Girls with two older brothers have been known to have it even worse.
This is the only existence third-year Indiana Fever guard Jeanette Pohlen has known, and she has siblings John, 28, and Tom, 26, to blame.
Or, rather, to thank.
The sweet-shooting Stanford University alum realizes she might not have had as many doors opened for her by the sport of basketball if not for the harsh lessons learned during her formative years.
“I definitely think they made me tougher. It was always the two of them against me. It didn’t matter if it was cards or Monopoly,” said the California native, 24, with a knowing smile. “But now they’re two of my biggest supporters.”
It’s a close-knit bunch, the Pohlens. So much so that when Indiana makes its annual western road trip to play Phoenix, Los Angeles and Seattle from Aug. 14-17, there’s a good chance some combination of relatives will be present in all three arenas.
Pohlen should be back in coach Lin Dunn’s rotation by then either as a reserve “2” or backup small forward. She has yet to see any floor time this season after nine-plus months of rehabilitating an ACL tear to her left knee suffered during Game 2 of the 2012 WNBA Finals.
“I literally had just come in the game. I had hit a 3-pointer and was going back to get in front of my defender and my knee turned the wrong way,” she said of the Oct. 17 evening inside Minnesota’s Target Center. “I have not watched it. No reason to. To me, it’s like, ‘It’s done.’”
Six days earlier, Pohlen had performed marvelously in place of veteran guard Katie Douglas after the Indianapolis native severely sprained her left ankle. Playing 18 minutes, Pohlen buried all four of her 3-point attempts en route to 14 points as Indiana won the deciding third game of the Eastern Conference Finals at Connecticut, 87-71.
Such uncanny marksmanship couldn’t have surprised those who remembered Pohlen eclipsing career milestones of 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds as a four-year letter winner at Brea Olinda High School near Los Angeles. Or the player who earned Pac-10 Player of the Year honors following a 2010-11 season in which Pohlen averaged 14.5 points and 4.8 assists.
Playing for legendary women’s coach Tara VanDerveer, Pohlen finished her time in a Cardinal uniform with 1,453 points and two NCAA runner-up finishes (2008, 2010).
Four years in Palo Alto, Calif., allowed Pohlen to meet other Stanford athletes, most notably LPGA Tour player Michelle Wie and second-year Indianapolis Colts players Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener.
“I think Andrew and I had a class together my sophomore year, and I had some classes with Michelle,” Pohlen said. “Our enrollment at Stanford is so small (roughly 7,000 undergraduates annually) and there are so many athletes that everyone kind of runs in the same circles. Stanford is kind of different. Yes, Andrew was a great football player, but people just left him alone to do his own thing.”
The thing Pohlen does best is shoot the basketball. As a Fever rookie in 2011 she knocked down 29 of 62 3-point tries (.468) while averaging 4.1 points a game; her numbers from last season’s 34 regular-season games were 32 of 76 (.421) and a 4.4 scoring norm.
Her return, expected to be following the WNBA All-Star Game on July 27, provides Dunn a much-needed perimeter threat as Indiana is scheduled to play 11 games in August alone. Seven are away from the familiar confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Pohlen had never experienced a serious injury prior to her torn ACL. The scar on her left knee is forever a silent reminder of the surgery, the countless rehab sessions that followed and, yes, the undeniable growth she’s made both as a person and player.
“For me, anytime something bad happens I always try to find a silver lining. The injury allowed me to be with my family and appreciate things more. I think I’ve definitely noticed that I’ve gained some patience as a player. I still play as hard as I can, but I can control it better,” she said. “I do think I’m ready. It’s gaining confidence and getting my reaction time down on defense.”
One of Pohlen’s favorite non-basketball pastimes is taking in the sights and sounds in a country, city or state previously foreign to her.
She would someday like to put her communications degree to good use with employment as a sports broadcaster or in the marketing department for a professional sports franchise. She hints that coaching girls or women’s basketball also could be in her future.
With any luck, that’s a whole lot of 3-point attempts down the road. With textbook form, of course.