Friday, March 5, 2010

Tarleton’s Lone Senior Leading By Example

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – When she arrived at Tarleton State, she was far from a polished basketball player. In fact, she lacked the size and experience of most incoming freshmen.

Still, Tarleton head coach Ronnie Hearne took a chance on JoAnne Jones.

It’s safe to say Hearne views that as one of the best decisions he ever made. Jones, the lone senior on this year’s Tarleton State squad, will leave the school as one of the most decorated players in TSU history.

“You should’ve seen her when she came to Tarleton as a freshman and then see her now. She’s improved more than anyone I’ve ever had at Tarleton, that’s for sure,” said Hearne, who has coached the TexAnns for seven seasons now. “She was really skinny, kind of awkward when she came. She played volleyball and basketball but didn’t play AAU and all that. She was way behind when she got to us. But I’m sure glad her high school coach sent me an email and I got her down for a tryout. It’s really worked out well.”

A first-team All-LSC South selection this year, Jones has certainly left her mark on the TexAnns program. When her career is over, Jones will rank in the Top 10 in several categories, including games played, blocks, rebounds, field-goal percentages, free-throws made and attempts and will probably be the Top 15, if not higher, in points scored.

When asked about her legacy at Tarleton, the soft-spoken Jones, who admits she’s not a favorite of any media attention, sheepishly dismisses the notion. While she did say the individual accomplishments might be important down the road, she certainly has one goal in mind currently.

Jones had just carried her Tarleton team on her back for an impressive quarterfinal win over Texas Woman’s in the LSC Championship in Bartlesville, giving the school its first-ever conference tournament win.

“It’s such a milestone for us. I’ve been here four times and we’ve never gotten past the first game. It’s great for us.”

Jones played 38 minutes in the TexAnns’ 71-66 victory, recording a game-high 22 points, seven rebounds and four blocks.

More than just statistics, Jones has also adopted more of a leadership role, which doesn’t come too easy, considering she’s not exactly the vocal type.

“She does it in a different way, mainly by setting an example,” Hearne said. “JoAnne is not very verbal. She’s pretty quiet. But if I hear a ball bouncing before practice, it’s JoAnne, working on something. She stays after practice, too. A lot of times it’s hard to get girls to do that.”

Jones said she learned a lot of leadership skills by watching former Tarleton standout Katie Crawford (2003-07), who was a senior when Jones arrived on campus four years ago.

“Since I’ve been here I can remember, Katie Crawford, she was that one person that just had to be there for us,” said Jones, who knew she needed to be that for this year’s team, which is filled with seven underclassmen. “I didn’t feel so much pressure, but I know I needed to be more vocal. They need me on the floor, since I am the only senior.”

The TexAnns certainly needed Jones on the floor Thursday afternoon against TWU. And it’s safe to suggest she will be sorely missed when her stellar collegiate career is over. But she won’t be forgotten, especially if there’s a Tarleton media guide and record book handy.

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