by RENALDO DORSETT
Her pro career begins in earnest this week, but Bahamian hoops star Jonquel Jones took the opportunity to give insight on everything from the genesis of her basketball career to what she expects to add to her team in her rookie season.
The Connecticut Sun officially opened its 14th season when it hosted media day and Jones was officially introduced to the city’s media outlets at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The rookie forward outlined what she hopes to bring to the Suns’ roster as the franchise moves forward under first year head coach Curt Miller.
“Any rookie that says they don’t have growth left in their game I feel sad for them. This is year one. There is just so much to look forward too and I’m just so happy to be here and be apart of this. It’s just a blessing. I just want to come out and reach for that potential and possibly fill that potential as well, so there’s definitely a lot of growth left.
Selected at No.6 overall by the Los Angeles Sparks, they immediately traded Jones to the Sun in exchange for Chelsea Gray and the Sun’s first round pick in 2017.
“I just want to be able to bring some defensive intensity, help the team out with my versatility by being able to step out and knock the three ball down every now and again as well. I would say defence is definitely something I feel the coaching staff expects me to bring and I want to bring to the team as well. I just want to always being a positive force on the team, no matter what situation I’m in, just understanding what coach needs from me and being able to fulfill it.”
The aforementioned Miller will coach a young Suns team anchored by returning All Stars Alex Bentley, Kelsey Bone and 2014 Rookie of the Year Chiney Ogwumike.
Along with Jones the Suns will also welcome incoming rookies Morgan Tuck, Rachel Banham, Jamie Weisner and Aliyyah Handford.
Returning veterans Alyssa Thomas, Jasmine Thomas and Shekinna Stricklen, and free agent signees Heather Butler, Victoria Macaulay and Jennifer O’Neill have been participating in training camp since practice began on Monday.
The Sun open the preseason May 4 against the Chicago Sky at 7pm and follow with the second game of a back-to-back, May 5 against the San Antonio Stars.
They will open the 2016 regular season against the Chicago Sky on May 14 and will play their first home game May 14 against the Washington Mystics.
Despite missing the final 10 games of the regular season for the George Washington Colonials, Jones was named honourable mention All-American for the second year in a row. The Grand Bahama native led the nation in rebounding (14.6 rpg) and ranked fourth in the Atlantic 10 in scoring (16.2 ppg) and second in blocked shots (3.3 bpg). The only player in the conference to average a double-double for the third straight season, she registered 18 double-doubles in 23 games played in finished her career with 54 in 84 games.
The 6-foot-6 forward finished her career ranking third all-time at GW in rebounds (961), fourth in scoring (15.4 ppg) and fifth in blocked shots. Including her time at Clemson as a freshman, Jones topped both the 1,000-point and 1,000-rebound marks, tallying 1,249 and 1,041, respectively. She also owns GW’s single-game and single-season rebounding records and boasts a pair of 20-point/20-rebound efforts.
Jones also noted her origin story and her path to basketball in the United States, which began with Gladstone “Moon” McPhee’s HOYTES (Helping Our Youth Through Education and Sports) organisation.
“I used to be a part of an organisation in the Bahamas called HOYTES. A lot of times they would take us to the U.S. and we would play against teams. I always say that these girls were always a step ahead of us. I always wanted to be a part of that and I wanted to try to get better. In the summertime when I knew they were coming, I would put that work in because I wanted to be better. Just watching them play, watching the skills they had, I just wanted to come over,” she said, “In sixth, seventh and eight grade I kept bugging my mother: ‘I want to go to the U.S., I want to play basketball here.’ For a long time she didn’t want me to go because she didn’t think I was mature enough to be away from them like that. I think they were right, so I think eighth/ninth grade is when we started looking into it.”
From there Jones finished her high school at Riverdale Baptist in Maryland, before she signed with the Clemson Tigers and eventually transferred to the Colonials where she completed her record setting collegiate career.