LaTrish Jones, the mother of Jasmine Jones, used to have to guard former Lady Vol All-American Tamika Catchings when Alabama played Tennessee in the 1990s. If Catchings, now an U.S. Olympian and WNBA MVP, practices with the team at any point next season, Jasmine can mention that fact to Catchings.
LaTrish Jones was a rebounder and defender for the Crimson Tide, and she has infused her daughter with the same attitude on the basketball court.
Jasmine Jones, a 6’1 forward, signed her letter of intent at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala. Several thoughts can go through a parent’s mind at that moment – ones of pride, accomplishment and the passage of time – but LaTrish Jones had a basic one.
“To be honest what was going through my mind was, ‘Please don’t sign on the wrong line,’ ” Jones said, a remark that brought laughter from both mother and daughter.
The ceremony was not for show with replacement paperwork. The forms in front of Jasmine Jones were the originals and had to be faxed to Tennessee after the signing session was over.
“This was her original signature,” LaTrish Jones said in a phone interview Thursday evening with Inside Tennessee. “This was her first time signing that piece of paper. That is why I was a little nervous hoping that she did sign on the right line.”
That moment of concern aside, Jones, who signed her own scholarship papers years ago, was proud of her daughter.
“It was very meaningful,” the mother said. “Whatever makes her happy, I’m happy. I just know her going to Tennessee was what she wanted to do, probably for all of her basketball career. I am so proud of her for actually going out and grabbing her dream.”
Jasmine Jones said she was a little nervous during the ceremony. Afterwards, she had to pose for photos, do media interviews, have some food and get back to school.
“Somebody asked me if I felt any different,” Jones said. “I am sure it will hit me later.”
Jones’ goal was to wear orange despite the color tone of her daily surroundings.
“My house is pretty crimson,” LaTrish Jones said.
She will be a regular at Lady Vol games at home – it’s less than four hours by car from Madison to Knoxville – and on the road and will be cheering for Tennessee, but Jones hasn’t yet committed to wearing orange.
“I will be at every home game and probably every game within the neighboring states,” she said. “I’ll be there.”
So what does a former Alabama player and dedicated Crimson Tide fan wear to a Tennessee basketball game?
“I am going to wear black with maybe an orange or a white ‘T’ emblem,” LaTrish Jones said. “I’ll figure it out. Maybe a gray shirt.”
Her daughter has other plans.
“I’ll paint something orange on the back of her shirt so she won’t notice,” Jasmine Jones said.
They both made the trip to Tennessee for the official visit last month.
“I really like the city,” LaTrish Jones said. “I think I will be up there a lot. I might not have on orange, but I will be up there enjoying the city and maybe checking up on her own and seeing what she needs.”
Alabama plays football at Tennessee next season, so that could be a fun trip. During this season’s Vols-Crimson Tide game, Jasmine Jones did the smart thing.
“I just sit to the side,” said Jones, who described her mother as a “diehard” Alabama fan. “I don’t say anything. I am quiet.”
LaTrish Jones’ roots in the SEC also give her an appreciation for what has daughter has accomplished by earning a scholarship to attend Tennessee.
“I don’t think there is a better league,” she said. “I don’t know if I am just being biased, but I really did want my daughter to play in the Southeastern Conference. Again, I don’t think there is a better league.”
That sentiment didn’t change after the announcement last August by Coach Pat Summitt that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
The story broke on the Internet about two hours before Summitt’s announcement – Tennessee was assembling the players to tell them first – and LaTrish Jones heard the news while Jasmine was still in school that day.
“I found out about it from her high school coach,” Jones said. “I told him not to say anything to her but she already knew. I had planned out in my head the speech that I was going to give to her about loyalty, but by the time I got home, she had already made up her mind.
“That is where she wants to play. She wants to play for Pat. She wants to play for the University of Tennessee. That was the bottom line. I was very proud of her in making that decision without me even having to give that speech about loyalty. I am just very proud of her for that.”
Jones also got the opportunity later to talk to Summitt about her condition and how it would be managed at Tennessee and said she has no qualms about sending her daughter to Knoxville.
“I am a single parent, and this is my first and probably last child,” she said. “I would not send my daughter anywhere if I didn’t feel comfortable. If I didn’t feel comfortable with my daughter going to the University of Tennessee, I would have put the bug in her ear.
“I am very comfortable with it. I am very comfortable with the staff. I pray that Coach Summitt can stay long enough for Jasmine to play for her for a season, two, three or even four. But I am very comfortable with Jasmine’s decision. I support it.”
Jasmine Jones and the other two 2012 signees, Bashaara Graves, who signed Wednesday, and Andraya Carter, who will sign Saturday, all stuck with the commitment.
“This is what I’ve wanted,” Jones said. “I worked this hard and got this far. I wasn’t going to change my decision.”
Jones intends to enjoy her final year of high school, and she hopes to win a state title for Bob Jones High School. She also has an eye on the future.
“I want to get better as an individual and to win a state championship, of course,” Jones said.
Like Graves, a 6’2 forward, Jones knows the Lady Vols graduate a lot of post players next spring, and the opportunity to make an immediate contribution will be available.
“I feel like I have the potential to go in and not exactly start but come in and do a good job,” said Jones, who has noticed the early success of freshman Isabelle Harrison, a 6’3 post from Nashville, off the bench for the Lady Vols.
Jones used her official visit to interact with her future teammates, watch a practice and chat with Heather Mason, the strength and conditioning coach who has the initial access to players in the voluntary summer workouts.
“I can tell we’ll have great chemistry,” Jones said of her future Tennessee team. “When I get there I am sure we will find a lot that we have in common. I learned a lot (on the visit). I got to sit and watch them practice.”
Jones intends to enroll for the first summer session next June and expressed interest in playing in the Women’s Pilot Rocky Top League.
Jones was relieved when the recruiting process ended – she committed to Tennessee last February – and she is happy to have signed the paperwork that officially made her a Lady Vol. She also credited her mother with getting her to this point in her basketball career.
“A lot of help,” Jones said. “Not so much with my decision on where I was going, but she gave me great advice.”
Mother and daughter used to play one-on-one basketball quite a bit, but that ended after LaTrish Jones sustained neck and back injuries while in the U.S. Army. She served as a military police officer, which led to a ruptured disc in her lower back. She then became an ammunitions specialist instructor and sustained a neck injury in a mishap involving a helicopter. Jones, now a disabled veteran, remains with the U.S. Army as a civilian employee.
“Prior to my injury, I worked with Jasmine a lot,” Jones said. “I played defense against her because that’s what I did in college. I was a defensive player. I didn’t score a lot of points. I played defense.
“Tamika Catchings was the person I had to guard all the time. She was my focus in college when we played Tennessee. I was such a fan of hers because she was the greatest player I ever played against.”
As it turns out, her daughter will now play at Catchings’ alma mater.
“I just can’t see anything better than the SEC and my daughter going to the University of Tennessee to play basketball,” Jones said.