By Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)
It took a little longer than expected, but the path Jess Aponik took got her where she should have ended up.
While the route had some extra turns and a couple detours, the Germantown Academy senior didn’t stray from it. No matter what changed around her, there was an end goal that never changed and never went anyway.
Aponik reached her destination over the weekend, committing to Kutztown on Saturday as the latest area player to join the PSAC program’s ranks.
“There’s going to be times where you feel like you failed, times where you feel like you’re on the top and a lot of bumps in the road,” Aponik said. “The important thing is to never give up and know there’s a plan for you, that’s how I kept my mind set on it throughout.”
Germantown Academy's Jess Aponik is headed to Kutztown next year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Aponik, a 5-foot-10 guard who can also slot in as a wing or even into the post in a pinch, almost seems built for the Golden Bears. KU’s gotten plenty out of numerous players like Aponik who bring a cadre of skills to the floor, so that fit seemed solid.
It was the fit beyond that which sold the GA senior, who finished her AAU career playing with Philly Rise’s 17U National roster this summer, on Kutztown. The Bears were the first to extend an offer to Aponik in June of 2022 and that fact never escaped her as she traveled her path.
“Kutztown was my first offer and right away, I loved it so I always found myself comparing other schools to them,” Aponik said. “I just knew I couldn’t see myself at any place other than Kutztown. It felt like a vibe, it felt like that was where I needed to be.”
Echoing some of the same sentiments as another Class of 2024 pledge, Archbishop Wood’s Alexa Windish, it was Aponik’s visit to campus that really swayed her.
“I stayed a night with the team, went to a practice, went to a football game and just immediately, it felt like home,” Aponik said. “I formed a really nice relationship with the coaches through my whole recruitment process, they were always so supportive. Even this season when I played with the Rise and we had so few local tournaments, they made efforts to still come see me play.”
Aponik finished her club ball career with the Rise this summer, her first and only year with the program. She came up with the Mid-Atlantic Magic, moved over to the Philly Belles for a few years, came back to the Magic for a year and then spent this last summer traveling all over with the Rise.
With her high school team at GA, Aponik has also been through a pallet of roles. She’s played point guard, at two guard, as a three and even a four at times for the Patriots, a fact that wasn’t lost on her college coaches.
Injuries have unfortunately also played a part. Her freshman year was the 2020-21 Covid-19 altered schedule, a hand injury muted part of her sophomore year and just last season, a severe ankle sprain kept her out more than a month.
“You just have to stay connected to your team,” Aponik said. “I went to all the practices and helped any way I could. I did the scoreboard, the book and going to the games and cheering on the sideline, keeps you connected. Even though you’re down and your mental health isn’t there, staying connected to your teammates makes it easier.”
Aponik knew Kutztown wasn’t making its decision on a handful of dates in December and January of her junior year either.
“They always believed in me,” Aponik said. “Even when I was injured, they told me not to rush back. They told me to go on other visits, to experience the journey and take my time in making this next big decision. They were always so supporting and welcoming and it was just so nice to have that behind me.”
There is one more big change coming Aponik’s way for her senior year. GA’s longtime coach Sherri Retif retired this spring, with Lauren Power coming over from Inter-Ac rival Notre Dame to take over leading a roster that now has a lot of experience.
With Jess and her twin sister Jenna, Sam Wade and Isabella Casey as seniors plus junior Gabby Bowes forming the core of the team, the Patriots aren’t shying away from big goals. This current crop of GA players hasn’t yet won an Inter-Ac title and they’re looking to challenge reigning champion Penn Charter, who also happens to be their biggest rival, on the way out.
“I think we have a really good team,” Aponik said. “I’m excited for our new coach, we’re already starting open gyms, so we’re all looking forward to it.
“At GA, we have a really close team, we’re together all the time. When I went to Kutztown, I could tell the girls were all so close and when I got to stay over, I saw that they were really best friends.”