15 West Valley View, Avondale, Arizona, Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Grad (From Page 14)
I had no strength whatsoever,” Jones said. “It was really discouraging because even though I was back out there with my team I couldn’t do anything, I had to sit around and watch.” Watching became a blessing in disguise. “Because I wasn’t playing, I was on the bench so I had to sit and watch, that helped me mentally,” Jones said. “I was watching my teammates and seeing what they were doing, trying to be a help to them, as well as getting my mind back into playing.” Jones didn’t do anything on the court for almost six months, and when she did get back to practicing with her teammates she said it felt like she was learning all over again. “My body still knew how to play, it was just the strength wasn’t there, I wasn’t hitting the ball as hard as I was before,” Jones said. “The fundamentals were still there, it was just that extra oomph wasn’t.” Jones now feels like she’s a better player than she
was before the illness, and part of that is because of the mental aspect of the game she learned while having to sit on the bench following the illness.
Jones is a middle blocker, but didn’t get a whole lot of playing time last year when she returned. That was because she was stuck behind Megan Knapp and Amanda Watkins, two players that are Division I-caliber athletes. “Shelby worked hard and really allowed the fact that she had good players around her help her get better, and that’s always important,” Arizona Western coach Jason Smith said. “She proved she’s a quality worker and got a scholarship.” When she did play in 2011, Jones had a .189 hitting percentage and averaged 0.25 blocks per set. “I didn’t get all the playing time I might have wanted,
“He originally called me about a setter and then he said he’s also looking for a middle, and I said I’ve got a pretty good deal for a middle because she’s got three years of eligibility,” Smith said. “If you look at how many kids are going from Buckeye High School to pretty decent scholarship offers from NCAA schools, there’s just not that many.” Kailey Smith is the setter that is transferring with Jones.
Having that chemistry should help make an easier transition. “She has an advantage that a lot of kids don’t because
she’s transferring along with her setter from her community college,” MacDonald said. “Some of that rhythm we’re waiting to see won’t take that long because she’s been working with that setter. Our hopes are she can make an impact on the block as soon as she can get her body into the gym.” Jones is excited for the opportunity to play at a Division II school, and she really likes the location of Francis Marion. “I have a lot of family in the South, it’s warm, academically it’s a high academic school, had my major, good graduation rate,” she said. “I plan on doing graduate school somewhere in Georgia, so it’s kind of a transition into that because I’ll be close. And I get to play volleyball.” Jones’ major is biology with an emphasis on pre-med. Although her time was short at Arizona Western, Jones
enjoyed it. “Arizona Western was a great opportunity,” she said. “Out of high school I wasn’t ready to go out of state, far away from home, so going to Yuma wasn’t that far.” Additionally, Arizona Western has made a name for itself in volleyball, allowing it to recruit out of state and internationally, Jones said. “We had two international players on our team, one from Brazil, one from Russia,” Jones said. “That was a really cool experience getting to play with them and learn their culture.”
High school Jones played two years at Buckeye before going to Arizona
but I feel in the long run it helped me because I was playing the same position as two really good athletes and I was learning a lot from them as well,” Jones said. “I really feel like my skills have improved a lot since I went to Arizona Western and I’m glad I did. I got an opportunity to play two years close to home, and now I get a chance to go to a bigger university and play, hopefully start.” Jones first got turned on to Francis Marion because Smith
knows the head coach, Paul MacDonald, from when they coached against each other in Michigan several years ago.
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Western, and as a junior earned honorable mention all-state. Lady Hawks coach Leaven Eubank is really happy for Jones and the way she’s been able to continue her playing career. “I think anytime you go on and continue playing it’s a neat opportunity,” Eubank said. “She’s a kid who her passion grew for it as she got older and was one of the few kids that was willing to take a chance and step out there a little bit. She definitely has the athletic ability and drive to excel, and she’s done that.” Jones has played volleyball since sixth grade, joining a club team in eighth grade, and she really fell in love with
it in high school, she said. It was between her sophomore and junior years that she really started to excel. “I had a pretty big growth spurt, that helped,” she said. “I feel like I always worked hard. The girls I had grown up with had been on varsity and I looked up to them and wanted to be on that level and felt like if I kept playing club volleyball, kept going to camps, it would pay off. Between sophomore and junior year I really decided I wanted to play volleyball for more than just my senior year.” Jones wants to make the most out of her new opportunity, and turn Francis Marion into a winner. “The last two seasons they haven’t had a winning record so I really want to go in and help them do that,” Jones said. MacDonald thinks Jones can make an immediate impact. “I think she’s going to put up a great block, pretty much from Day 1 here, and that’s something we’re excited to see,” he said. “She came and worked out for us on her visit and we were really impressed on her block. Not only did she have a quality vertical and know the basics, but we thought she used her eyes and blocked smartly. She’s not one to just run up and throw her hands in the air.” Jones has three years of eligibility remaining because of her medical redshirt, and wants to utilize them all. The only reason she wouldn’t is if academics take precedence. “I don’t really see myself playing volleyball in the Olympics — that would be great, but academics are top priority,” Jones said. “Volleyball is my love, it’s paying for schooling, it’s a great chance for me to keep playing, so I just really want to go in and help my team win.” If Jones’ work ethic translates on to the court, she should definitely help out her Francis Marion teammates. Eubank has seen that work ethic first hand lately, as Jones helps with Buckeye’s summer program. “In the gym between last year and this year, holy
moly,” Eubank said, referring to Jones’ improvement. “I love to see kids that are willing to put themselves out there and in an opportunity to excel past high school. She’s proven she can excel in the classroom, and excel on the court. It’s just a neat thing to see.” What’s really nice to see is that Jones can even play
volleyball after the traumatic incident she went through. It’s really put things into perspective for her. “I’m definitely thankful that I get to keep playing,” Jones said. “[The illness] made me appreciate it more that a lot of athletes would love to play in college or keep playing after high school and may not get that chance. So I feel like it made me appreciate where I’m at more and I really have a love and passion for the game.”
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