Favorite athlete: Lebron James
Favorite team: 76ers
Favorite memory competing in sports: Playing basketball for Antwerp International School in Belgium and competing in the Northwest European Council of International Schools (NECIS) championship in Denmark.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I got stuck in traffic on my way to Washington DC for an AAU tournament, arriving halfway through my game.
Music on playlist: Rod Wave, Drake, Tory Lanez, Lil Tjay, Frank Ocean
Future plans: Attend college and medical school.
Words to live by: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela
One goal before turning 30: Practice medicine as a physician.
One thing people don’t know about me: I have traveled to over 50 countries, while collecting snow globes for each country I visited.
By Mary Jane Souder
Jaden Wan was on the fast track to living out her dream of playing collegiate basketball.
The then Council Rock North sophomore was doing it all, averaging 16 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting 51.6 percent from the floor when – in the sixth game of the COVID shortened season – she went down with an injury in her team’s game against Neshaminy. It marked the end of a brilliant season, but so impressive was Wan in five games that she earned first team All-SOL Patriot honors.
Fast forward to her senior year, and the 5-10 forward is back on the court with a surgically repaired knee and a new perspective on a sport she loves.
“It definitely has changed the way I’ve looked at basketball and how I play,” she said. “I play with a lot of resilience I would say coming back and really appreciating the present and the moment and also being careful not to do anything that would be another injury.
“Coming from the sideline perspective especially, I really gained an appreciation for being a positive role model. It has added a lot to how I look at my game and how I help the team. I think I’ve really grown as a player and a person.”
There is not a trace of anger or even frustration when Wan talks about an experience that - for the past two years - has been a case of now she’s playing, now she’s not. It a would have broken some and certainly soured others on the sport.
“It’s very, very unfortunate,” North coach Jack Kelly said. “It really stings to think about what could have been, but I think what we learn is – life is filled with adversity, and Jaden never allowed her injuries to define her. She just kept working her way back.
“Last year, after she got hurt again, it would have been easy for her to give up on things, but she never did. She came to practice every single day, she worked at rehab throughout the summer, and she got herself back in a position to be a contributor this year. She’s had a fantastic senior season for us.”
And instead of lamenting her time off the court, Wan used it to pursue and receive certification as an EMT.
“I eventually want to become a physician and be an orthopedic surgeon and specialize in sports medicine, so I think this whole experience drove me towards my future,” said Wan, a National Merit Commended Student with a GPA of 4.464. “Having that experience and being able to empathize with others and become that great physician that others can look to is a big takeaway from my experience.”
Wan’s basketball experience began close to 4,000 miles away from Council Rock North at Antwerp International School in Belgium when she was in third grade.
“I had a great experience,” she said. “I started playing, and I fell in love with the sport and continued until now.”
During her family’s two-year stint in Belgium with her father’s job, Wan gave early glimpses of what promised to be a bright future on the court, playing with fifth and sixth graders when she was in third grade at the request of the coach.
“I was the youngest player on the team because only the middle school players were allowed,” she said. “I got to travel to the NECIS (Northwest European Council of International Schools) championship in Denmark. We got to stay overnight in houses (of residents) and then played against other teams. I really loved that experience, and I really enjoyed my time abroad. That was so fun.”
After two years in Belgium, Wan’s family returned to their home in Chalfont but then moved to St. Louis before settling in Newtown when she was in sixth grade.
“It was tough making new friends, joining new teams,” she said. “But I think that has allowed me to gain more experience with others. Playing with new people, I really learned from others.”
Upon her return to the states, Wan played travel and then joined the AAU circuit, beginning with the Upper Makefield Heat before joining the Mid-Atlantic Magic AAU in seventh grade and remaining with that program.
After a successful freshman year that saw Wan average 12 points a game, she was playing at an even higher level the following year. Until, that is, she went down in a collision in Rock North’s game at Neshaminy on Feb. 9, 2021.
“I was going for a ball and a girl came and dived to grab the ball and landed on me,” Wan said. “I heard a pop – I didn’t really know what it was. I fell down.
“That was shock in the moment because I didn’t have any injuries before. It was my first major injury.”
The injury – a dislocated knee and a high-grade partial tear of the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) - also included cartilage damage, but after eight weeks of physical therapy, Wan returned to the court for her AAU season.
“I had a full AAU season – everything was going super well,” Wan said. “I had no accidents or injuries within my AAU season, but then in October open gyms, it just popped right out. It happened the second time, and it was more severe than the first time.
“After going back to my orthopedic surgeon, they warned me that there was a high chance – I think it’s 50 percent of re-dislocation, so that was the risk. The choice was playing through my junior season or having surgery right then and there, so I chose to do physical therapy again because it was pretty early before the season started, so I thought I could do another 6-8 weeks and play my junior season. Eventually, it happened in games a couple more times.”
In Rock North’s non-league game at Gwynedd Mercy, Wan went down and was helped off the court.
“I just said – I’m having surgery because it wasn’t worth it,” Wan said. “That was just giving up my last year of AAU and then being able to play my senior season.
“It really was a long journey. Going through surgery and after surgery not being able to walk on it super well, sitting on my bed trying to do my stretches – that really was the low point I would say, but I knew there was so much ahead of me.”
Wan returned to the starting lineup this winter and played in all 22 games
“It was really fulfilling to come back to my team,” she said. “We’ve gone through a lot of growth from the start because I came back mid-August, and having that preseason with my team, going through so much growth and also with coach Kelly being our new head coach and learning new plays and stuff. As a team and individual, I think we’ve really grown. I really enjoyed my senior season, so I think it was really worth it.”
Wan averaged 10.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and connected on 22 shots from beyond the arc.
“She gave us a presence of scoring on the inside, but she also expanded her game to be more apt to score on the perimeter as well,” Kelly said. “She’s improved her shooting. I think the other thing that’s underrated about her is she’s really a good rebounder, especially offensively. She kept the ball alive for us a lot.
“On top of that is just her leadership. Our players really looked up to her. She’s a calming presence – she never gets too high, she never gets too low. She’s very receptive to feedback. She’s constantly communicating, and she brings kind of a quiet leadership. She goes about her business and never lets up working to be her best on a daily basis. She’s a tremendous role model for our younger players especially.”
Basketball is just one piece – albeit an important piece – of Jaden Wan’s life.
An outstanding student, Wan is on the distinguished honor roll and has taken the highest level courses available. This year she is enrolled in five AP classes - AP Physics, AP Chemistry, AP Literature, AP Calculus BC, and AP Psychology.
“It’s really tough juggling all those courses,” Wan said. “I also have a side elective of accelerated gym, so I have gym every day. I really love it, and I think it’s a really nice break in my day because right now we’re playing basketball, so I get to have that period of fun with basketball.”
Wan is also president of the school’s American Heart Association Club, vice president of the Math National Honor Society. She is a community outreach officer of the Asian Student Association. She is a member of the National Honor Society as well as the Spanish, Social Studies and Science National Honor Societies.
She is founder and president of the SAM (Students Against Melanoma) Club.
“This really has a family tie because my grandfather and my dad both had skin cancer, so that really made me pursue creating that awareness of skin cancer preventions and help others be aware of using sunscreens, clothing because I’ve seen how it has affected my grandfather and my dad,” said Wan, “My grandfather had melanoma, and he had that surgically removed. It was early detection so we’re really thankful that because it’s really deadly when it spreads. My dad had Squamous (cell carcinoma), and he has to have moles removed that were early signs of skin cancer. He’s a two-time cancer survivor.”
“At school, we’re having a fundraiser for SPF Chapstick and also installing sunscreen dispensers.”
Wan also volunteers as an EMT and at a free clinic with her sights set on attending college and medical school. As for playing basketball at the next level, she has not given up on the idea, but her aspirations are vastly different than they once were.
“I always wanted to play basketball at the college level, and my injuries did limit my exposure and recruiting,” Wan said. “Now, after getting injured and having surgery, I have become more aware and cautious of injuries, gaining a different outlook on my future.
“I have become more career oriented and have focused on my aspirations to become a physician. If I have the opportunity to play in college while being accepted into a premed program, I will play because basketball is something I enjoy, giving me life lessons I will forever cherish.”
Wan is leaning towards a more academically driven D3 route that could also afford her the opportunity to play basketball.
“Jaden is very well respected in our school for her leadership,” Kelly said. "Obviously, she’s an extremely bright kid, and she’s impressive how she manages all of that, but I think the thing that people sometimes fail to look at is how mindful and how thoughtful a person she is.
“She has a tremendous amount of perspective, and unlike most people, she is really reflective, she’s a tremendous listener. She really listens and tries to reflect on what is being said to her, what is being taught to her, what’s being asked of her. She tries to really process that before she makes any type of judgement or any type of response. That thoughtfulness is something that is unlike any kids that I’ve taught or coached. It’s often overlooked, but I think it’s something that will really empower her to do big things in the future.”