Gisela Sanchez’s injury journey: Nothing holding her back

Redshirt sophomore Gisela Sanchez represented Spain in the FIBA U20 women's European Championship over the 2023 summer. Spain won the bronze medal as Sanchez averaged 8.3 ppg on 47.1 3p% in her first action after a season-ending knee injury before the 2022 women's basketball season. (Photo courtesy of FIBA)

Sophomore Gisela Sanchez’s 2022-23 season ended before it even started. An early knee injury took away her first year from Kansas State women’s basketball. Her college season was over. However, Sanchez did not allow the injury to affect her beyond the season.

Despite her sophomore season-ending injury, Sanchez worked tirelessly to represent her home country of Spain in the 2023 FIBA U20 European Championship this past summer.

“The ACL injury was obviously hard for me, because I was not able to do the thing that I wanted to,” Sanchez said. “The first thought I had was, ‘Okay, I am done for at least more than a year.’”

The redshirt sophomore had only been in rehab for a few months when she received the opportunity to play for Spain. In spite of her recent injury, her passion for her homeland was the motivation needed to push past her injury and return to the court.

“When I was on the court I had a feeling of ‘I am proud of my country,’” Sanchez said. “When I received the call that I made the team it was the best thing for me, because I got to play and represent my country.”

The Barcelona native returned to Spain for her second European Championship after playing in the 2019 FIBA U16 Women’s Basketball World Cup.

Alongside the Wildcat, 15 other women wore jerseys with the word “ESPAŃA” in bright red stitching. The conditioning Sanchez experienced with her teammates after her injury included two-hour-long practices twice a day.

“It was hard, but it was fun because of the relationship I had with my teammates,” Sanchez said. “On the court we were good and off the court we were still good.”

Sanchez hopes to bring many lessons from her time abroad back to Manhattan. The journey to her second bronze medal assisted in maturing her skills as well as renewing her confidence.

“The [Spain U20] staff had confidence in me and said ‘You have an injury but we still want you and will see how it is when you arrive,’” Sanchez said. “It allowed me to arrive back here and start practicing hard right away.”

While playing for Spain, Sanchez shot 47.1% from the 3, averaging 8.3 ppg. Meanwhile, the Wildcats shot an average of 29.5% from 3 in the 2022-23 season. Sanchez’s shooting provides a strength where K-State has struggled, potentially a much needed boost for the team to improve on this season. She will be joined alongside star center Ayoka Lee in returning to the team from knee injuries. Lee’s 2022-23 also ended prematurely before the season started after her historic 2021-22 season.

As Sanchez continues to improve her play, she is keeping a positive mindset and pushing all fears of a reinjury out of her head.

“People who have had or have an injury need to have a strong mentality — you may be scared to bend your knee or start rehab, but you need to have an objective,” Sanchez said. “I had an objective. I worked towards that objective. Now, I have it.”