The highlight of Jaleesa Chapel’s summer was interviewing her favorite NBA player, Kevin Durant, an experience she didn’t think would come in handy so soon afterward.
Chapel, a Wichita State senior women’s basketball player, was an intern for the ABC affiliate in Houston, her hometown. A few months later, she tore the ACL in her right knee in practice and missed the entire season.
Instead of playing, she has spent the year chronicling the Shockers as the color analyst on radio and Internet broadcasts. She plans to return after redshirting this season, but she also feels the pull of life after basketball.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love both,” Chapel said. “But being on the sideline really made me appreciate what’s going on on the court. I have a different perspective of what’s going on, so when I do play again … I’ll be able to incorporate what I learned. But I have a passion for both.”
Depending on WSU’s coaching situation as the school looks for a permanent replacement for Jody Adams-Birch, who parted ways with the team last month, Chapel may or may not return to the Shockers.
So she might be calling her final WSU home game while fellow seniors TaQuandra Mike, Brittany Martin and Hannah Mortimer play theirs on Sunday against Indiana State.
Chapel is the only player who has spent the last four years with the team and experienced the highs and lows of the Adams-Birch era. She played on NCAA Tournament teams as a freshman and a sophomore before the team fell to an 8-22 record last year after several players left the program.
“I don’t regret anything that has happened,” Chapel said. “I learned a lot. It’s been a roller coaster, that’s probably the sum of everything. Each year has been different, but I just enjoyed the ride because I learned so much and I’ve grown as a person, not only a basketball player.”
A communication major, Chapel has pursued opportunities in that field as enthusiastically as she has approached a season of rehabilitation. She landed the internship in Houston and her first assignment was interviewing the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team, which was in town for an exhibition game.
“It was really cool – especially KD (Durant). KD is my favorite player,” Chapel said. “My voice was shaking as I was talking to him, but I was glad I got to do it.”
Chapel became more comfortable with a job that allowed her to report on news and sports stories. She has progressed similarly as a broadcaster, a position that Adams-Birch encouraged her to try.
Chapel said it has been strange to describe the play of her teammates, and maybe just as strange knowing that they sometimes listen to her call after the games.
“She’s getting better and better every time she does it,” said Mike, who calls Chapel her best friend on the team. “I like it, so I’m going to support her.”
Chapel has played several roles for the Shockers as a senior, none of which she expected. She has rehabbed intensely and is walking without crutches.
She has become the team’s most vocal cheerleader in practices and in the locker room and one of its voices on the microphone, too.
“My first instinct (after the injury) was, ‘Oh my gosh, my career,’ ” Chapel said. “I’ve always been active and I’ve never been seriously injured before. This was devastating to me, but a lot of good things came out of it.”
at WSU women
- When: 2 p.m. Sunday
- Where: Koch Arena
- Records: ISU 12-14, 6-9 MVC; WSU 13-13, 8-7
- Broadcast: goshockers.com, ESPN3.com