Posted Nov 1, 2007 11:17:16
Jones Prepares for Tech Debut
RUSTON – When Louisiana Tech guard Whitney Jones steps on the floor of E.A. Diddle Arena on Nov. 20 to take on Western Kentucky, she might be joined by a few butterflies.
And who can blame her. It’ll be the first time in almost a full year that the 5-foot-8-inch shooting guard has seen action in a college game since transferring from Baylor in December of last season.
“I think I’ll be so excited to be on the court and play in a game situation,” Jones said. “I haven’t done that in a while so it’ll be exciting. Practice has gone pretty good. I came out slow, but it’s coming together. I’m getting in shape and getting the feel of being on the court again. I feel pretty good.”
Jones won’t be the only person excited about her return to the hardwood. You can add Tech head coach Chris Long’s name to that list. Long, who recruited Jones religiously during her days as a Lady Rebel, knows the importance of Jones’s return to Louisiana Tech.
“(Whitney returning to Tech) was big because we did recruit her hard and for a long time,” Long said. “It’s nice for her to get back home. I think there is no question it’s important. She was the two-time Gatorade Player of the year in Louisiana, and we need those players in this program.
Jones signed with Baylor after a long, hard recruiting battle. As a true freshman, she played sparingly for the Bears, averaging 1.1 points and 2.3 rebounds in eight games while making one start.
Despite the limited playing time for head coach Kim Mulkey’s team, Jones said it was her heart that led her back to Tech.
“I never put Louisiana Tech out of the picture,” Jones said. “I went off to Baylor trying to experiment with being away from home. I really wanted to be at Tech from the beginning, but I also wanted to try to go away. When I got down there, I realized I really wanted to be back home.”
Jones enrolled at Tech in the winter quarter last year, but she wasn’t able to practice for while due to a stress fracture suffered at Baylor. And even when she was finally healthy enough to start practicing, Jones said it was tough sitting and watching during games.
“It was difficult because (I watched) from the bench, and I felt like I could help the team,” Jones said. “It was hard watching games and knowing I could have helped. I was ready to get on the court.”
It was hard on her coach as well.
“There were times last year in practice that she was the best player in the gym,” Long said. “And she wasn’t 100 percent (healthy). She’s like a freshman again because she has only played in (eight games) in college. She’s basically starting over again.”
Jones will be starting over but not till the Nov. 20 Western Kentucky opener. She will once again be in street clothes for Tech’s two exhibitions games due to the NCAA Transfer rule.
“It’s unfortunate for her as well as our team that she will not be able to play in our two exhibition games,” Long said. “It changes what we will be able to do. We will not get a true reflection of our team, but as same time it will allow some other players to play.”
When Jones does suit up on the Columbia blue and red against the Lady Toppers, it will give Long one more key component to a young but talented Techster team.
“Whitney is going to be a go-to player,” Long said. “She is our most explosive perimeter player right now. A lot is expected from her, and I feel like she can deliver.
“Offensively, I feel like she is someone who can really shoot the three-pointer and put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. She has a good first step and can get by people. She has been working hard on her pull up jump shot which has looked good in practice. She will be a big part of this basketball team.”
Although Jones said she knows that she has a lot of work to do on the defensive aspect of her game, she also knows that in order for her team to be successful, she has to produce offensively.
“My role will be scoring,” Jones said. “I have to go score the ball. Of course, coach Long expects me to play defense too, but I’ve got to put the ball in the basket.”
And once that first shot goes in the basket on Nov. 20, the butterflies will disappear and Whitney Jones will be back.