BURNABY — Tuesday was a day for Jessica Jones to understand, with a veteran’s perspective, the meaning of perseverance in the face of adversity.
After discovering that she had been named the GNAC’s women’s basketball 2021-22 Preseason Player of the Year, Simon Fraser’s energetic, shot-making senior guard put it all into words as best she could.
“It’s super humbling,” she told Varsity Letters, eluding to the fact that news of the honour comes as she has been contemplating the content of the personal essay statement she will eventually write as a part of her law school application.
“One of the things I wanted to talk about in my essay is my journey at SFU,” said Jones, who while red-shirting as a pure freshman in 2016-17, admits she began to doubt, at times, her ability to succeed at the NCAA level. “There were times when I was very discouraged and didn’t even think I was going to continue with SFU women’s basketball. But this news, after all the sacrifice and those long, long days in the gym… it just feels really, really special.”
Also named to the GNAC preseason all-star team was Jones’ SFU teammate, senior guard Kendal Sands.
Jones would go on to play in 78 of 80 games over her first three seasons, averaging double-figures in each, including her career-best 17 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists in the pre-COVID 2019-20 campaign.
Now, after a season away in which she improved both her skill and physicality, she’s itching for the opening tip of the 2021-22 GNAC Conference season Dec. 4 in Bellingham and what will be her final regular-season trip to Carver Gym to face the Western Washington Vikings. SFU opens conference play at home Dec. 30 against St. Martin’s
And while a lot has changed since 2019-20, a lot will feel the same for Jones, the former Richmond-R.A. McMath star.
Point guard Taylor Drynan has long-since graduated, and former GNAC Rookie of the Year Ozi Nwabuko (PoCo-Riverside) has stepped aside from the game.
Yet Jones is thrilled to be a part of the team’s returning triumvirate which also includes 2021-22 GNAC pre-season all-star guard Sands (Coquitlam-Dr. Charles Best), and forward Claudia Hart (North Vancouver-Seycove).
“It’s honestly the best because not only are Claudia and Kendal a huge part of this team, they are also my best friends off the court,” adds Jones. “Graduating with them and getting to have a Senior’s Night with them… I couldn’t be happier that they also decided to play out their last year on the team.”
SFU was picked to finish fourth in the GNAC preseason coaches poll, and a big part of its identity will be established as that senior trio, along with the junior trio of Emma Kramer (Surrey-Sullivan Heights), Georgia Swant (North Vancouver-Argyle) and Sophie Kramer (Chilliwack-Sardis) develops chemistry with a talented group of seven sophomores, and first- and second-year freshmen.
And if those freshmen have any questions as to why Jones, Sands and Hart have returned tatop the hill and so ready to conduct business, they need to do nothing more than check out the box score from the team’s last game together back on March 3 of 2020 at the Brougham Pavilion in Seattle.
Jones, Sands and Hart were all part of a 76-60 loss in the GNAC championship game to the Central Washington Wildcats.
For Jones, it left a fire burning in the pit of her gut.
“I can’t speak to how much of a fire it left in everyone, but I know it has fuelled us,” admits Jones, who was 3-for-16 from the field that night.
“Personally, I got frustrated during that game, and I wasn’t scoring and hitting my shots,” she continued. “I felt that I didn’t contribute. But I have gotten a mentally tougher since that game. I feel like I can better fight through it, and help my team with a big shot or a key stop, and I know it’s the same for Kendal and Claudia.
“We have played together for so long now,” she adds, “that we will be able to face that kind of adversity together and be better moving forward.”
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