Kelsey Plum Eyes 3x3 Roster Spot as She Returns from Achilles Injury
The high-scoring guard joined the WNT for the first time since undergoing surgery in June.
For many, 2020 was a year that went off the rails. It was no different for Kelsey Plum.
Three years removed from becoming the NCAA Division I all-time leading scorer as a guard at the University of Washington, Plum was one of the members of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team dealing with the pandemic-forced pause of any Olympic preparation when further misfortune struck.
While playing 3x3 basketball in early June, Plum tore her left Achilles tendon. A few months after her USA National Team dreams been put on hold, any plans she had for the upcoming WNBA season had been dashed as well.
“It was just kind of a freak thing,” Plum said. “It was one of the last possessions of the day. I just caught the ball on the wing, drove, and suddenly felt like someone s hot or kicked me. There was a loud pop, and I pretty much knew right away what had happened.”
Within just a few days, Plum was on a plane to Los Angeles for surgery to repair the tendon. The surgery was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who had done a similar procedure on several professional players, including Plum’s USA teammate Breanna Stewart and Kobe Bryant.
“He’s one of the best in the world,” Plum said of ElAttrache. “After that, it was just a matter of rest and rehab.”
Plum’s Las Vegas Aces teammates found success in the WNBA bubble in Florida, reaching the league finals to conclude a truncated 2020 season. But Plum watched from home as she prepared for 2021.
“My 2020 was pretty much like everyone else’s,” she said. “I spent a lot of time at home, rehabbing five to six times a week, doing a lot of strength and conditioning work. It was pretty repetitive stuff.”
However, while the injury was a definite setback, Plum maintained a positive perspective about her lost season.
“I think that if it had to happen to me like it did, 2020 was the time,” she said. “Of all the seasons to miss, it might as well be the one in the bubble.”
Fast forward to February 2021, and Plum returned to the first USA National Team training camp in nearly a year. She’s healed, rested and ready to pick up her national and professional career right where it left off.
“It feels great to be back,” she said after her first USA practice in Columbia, South Carolina. “I don’t feel like I missed out on a ton like I might have in another year. “They’re trying to be cautious with me, but I’m playing and feel really good about it.”
In addition to being a member of the USA National Team, Plum is a member of USA Women's 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Team, which will compete in the 2021 FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, scheduled for May 26-30, in Graz, Austria. She was named to the qualifying team last year.
She worked on both her 5-on-5 and 3x3 game at the camp, as she continues to prepare for a trip to Austria as well as a possible spot on the 3x3 Olympic team at this year’s Tokyo Games.
“3x3 is a different style of game than 5-on-5,” Plum said. “But I enjoy both of them.”
In addition to her 3x3 aspirations with the national team, the No. 1 pick of the 2017 WNBA Draft looks to get her professional career back on track with a return to the Aces. But Plum is keeping her hopes for 2021 in check as she gets back into the swing of the game she loves.
“I think in the past I’ve always set goals and expectations for myself, which isn’t a bad thing,” she said. “However, coming off this Achilles injury, I’m not going to set a lot of expectations to start. I’m just going to have fun and enjoy the game.”
Tom Carothers is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.