“It was trials and tribulations on the road to chasing that paper.
Seen so many faces, been so many places, caught some cases
Crazy thing is, out of all life done taught me
Before you get one win, you gotta take a thousand losses”
Rod Wave’s lyrics can penetrate souls when he rhythmically talks of life, love, tragedy, adversity… everyday occurrences everyone experiences at some point. Disappear into his music, and he will flow into your heart with at least one of his songs.
For some, more than others.
For 30-year-old Theresa Plaisance, the words run deep. Some of them fittingly into her nine-year professional career.
She’s been shuffled around the WNBA as a reliable journeywoman, she’s recovered from a torn ACL, and she not only endured a career-threatening back surgery but survived a second one shortly thereafter that threatened her life.
And yet through it all, there is nothing but positive vibes that emit from the New Orleans native, who’s quite simply one of the most jovial and infectious players among the 44 women in Dallas for the second season of Athletes Unlimited Basketball.
“She just knows how to make the mood light and I think that’s what’s so special about her and why she’s remained in the W for so long,” Isabelle Harrison said. “She can go into any locker room and adapt and I love that. I’m really happy that she gets to be shown in AU and really just tell her story the way that it needs to be told.”
When Harrison was shipped to Dallas from the Las Vegas Aces in 2019, it was Plaisance who first reached out to her then-newest teammate to make her feel welcome.
“And she just remained the same all these years,” Harrison added.
ISSUES AND PAIN
Through all of the issues and all of the pain
They say sun shines after it rains
Plaisance worked hard to return from ACL surgery in 2017, while she was still with the Dallas Wings, but also at a time she wasn’t sure what to expect from the procedure.
What she learned about the recovery process was how much she put into it would be exactly what she’d get out of it. If not more.
It was an invaluable lesson at the time, one she didn’t know she’d need when she was told she would need reconstructive surgery on her back.
A microdiscectomy is a surgical procedure for the relief of pain and other symptoms that occur when a herniated disc in the spine presses on an adjacent nerve root.
But Plaisance knew that whenever people say back surgery, there’s the, ‘Ooh, yikes,’ factor. For her, she had that lesson to lean on.
And with faith in her surgeon, she was adamant to get back on the court, knowing she could get to a place where she would be pain-free.
“I just had to put my mind, put my body, and put my heart into what I really wanted to do,” she said. “I couldn’t keep going the way that I was going. And when you have something like back surgery, it really helps you open your eyes to either wanting to have your career continue, or this could be the end of the road.”
The procedure and recovery are generally considered routine and might be compared to having a meniscus cleaned up in the knee. But for Plaisance, it was the aftermath that became scary. Two weeks later an infection just millimeters away from her spinal canal immediately forced her back on the surgery table, otherwise, there was going “to be some bad news.”
Thus, the process started over, which for back surgery, can be very mentally draining with nothing to do besides stand up or lay down.
“When you have back surgery as a normal human being, you’re just getting to a place where you can be comfortable every day,” Plaisance said. “When you have back surgery as a professional athlete, you have to get to that place and then push your body even further to be a professional athlete. To hit the floor, to cut, to be able to react. It was a learning experience of how I need to treat my body. I’m now well aware of the maintenance I require, the diet that’s required. Everything kind of helped me tune up a little bit. You just learn a lot about yourself through injury. And I feel like I came out of my back surgery feeling stronger than ever, both mentally and physically.”
Plaisance says she feels better at 30 years old than she did at 26, and over the years when dealing with minor post-game issues here and there, she’s ecstatic being able to wake up every morning with no issues, and being able to put her joggers on and walk around without any pain.
“It’s phenomenal,” she said.
SHINE, GRIND, HUSTLE
I remember everything, the shine, and the struggle.
I remember all the pain, all the grind, all the hustle
Plaisance isn’t afraid to put in work, especially during the offseason – when most championships are truly won.
So when former Aces teammate Sydney Colson called to talk Athletes Unlimited, the intrigue of what she describes as “professional pickup basketball” sounded like the perfect way to prepare for her fifth WNBA franchise.
“Training by yourself at home gets a little boring,” Plaisance said. “So being able to play in a league where you can actually make a pass and play defense and score on somebody that isn’t your brother, it’s really nice to be able to play 5-on-5 basketball.”
Through the first two weeks, Plaisance has not only fallen in love with the game within the game, but she’s also thriving as a points leader and one of the most sought-after stretch forwards when captains take their place for Sunday morning drafts.
And it’s been more than the games keeping in her shape, and getting her mind ready for a new venture in Seattle, she said, it’s being around people that have been around the game for years, having facilitators and support staff, and having outside eyes that see the game a bit differently than a player would.
“Here, your job looks different every single week, just depending on where you’re drafted, what’s asked of you, so I think it’s a really cool league in that aspect,” said Plaisance, who is currently seventh on the leaderboard. “I did not expect to come in and make a splash the way that I did the first week, I just kind of had no expectations and I was just kind of going to see what AU was like, trying to get a feel. And I just hit some shots and got going a little bit with my first outing, which was really nice because that was my first time outside of practices here being able to play five against five.”
For NaLyssa Smith, there was a game during the second week of the season she was wondering if Plaisance was going to miss. Plaisance’s consistency and versatility led Smith to bring her aboard Team Orange for the third week of the season.
“I feel like every single game she’s very consistent and that’s something that a lot of people look for, you know, she can score the ball from a lot of areas,” Smith said. “She’s always a good teammate too, she always has energy, she’s always supportive – that’s the main reason I wanted her on my team.”
It’s the main reason she was an integral part of the Aces’ run to the WNBA championship last summer.
Plaisance said the off-court relationships easily correlated to on-court chemistry, and as the season progressed, she felt something special happening, due to the players buying into not only first-year coach Becky Hammon but also into one another. For her, it meant being part of a supporting cast that at times needed a voice on the bench, coming to practice with the mindset to push her incredible starting five teammates.
“TP brightened the locker room last year simply by being herself,” Colson said. “She’s such a funny person and as much as I act like she’s nauseating, she’s actually a joy to be around. (DeArica Hamby’s daughter) Amaya was obsessed with her and I’m sure it was because of her childlike nature. She’s truly just a great teammate and vet.”
Thus, she arrived in Dallas after what she said was one of the best summers of her life. The bonds on and off the court with the Aces were tremendous and on display all season. The laughs were endless, the competitiveness was fierce, and the result was a title.
“You just want to be a part of it, and you will do whatever it takes to make sure that championship happens,” Plaisance said. “There was always that energy of just pushing each other to be the very best that we can. And you just saw a team come together and do something incredibly special. And winning that championship was just the cherry on top. I could honestly tell you that even without the championship, we would have had the best time of our lives. But that championship meant the world to every single one of us because we know how much we put into it. We know how much we poured into one another. It was just really, really special.”
Midway through the AU season, Plaisance is once again having the time of her life.
“You’re never too old to learn more about the game or enhance your game,” Plaisance said. “If anything, you’re always finding a new way to make your game relevant. Playing here and also playing with a different team every week, there’s no one way to do it. So this has kind of allowed me to have an open mind about what basketball is, what my role looks like, and helped me step out of my comfort zone in a lot of different ways.
“The players that come in here that can do just more than one thing, and that have some versatility to their game, this is a venue where you really get to show a little bit more.”
For Plaisance, showing a little bit more is something she’s been doing her entire career.
W.G. Ramirez is a 35-year veteran sports reporter in Southern Nevada, serving as a correspondent for Athletes Unlimited. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez
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