Jasmine Jones, a freshman forward whose mother played for the Crimson Tide during its halcyon days when Alabama was giving Tennessee all it could handle in the 1990s, grew up steeped in crimson and white.
But Jones gravitated to the orange and white, and it was partly because of how her mother, La Trish Jones, talked about Tennessee. LaTrish Jones played for Rick Moody – Jasmine was a “Moody Munchkin” when she was a child – and she drew the assignments of guarding Tamika Catchings and Chamique Holdsclaw because of her defensive prowess.
“She would tell me about the great games they played and talking about Tennessee and Catchings and Holdsclaw and all these great players she played against,” Jasmine Jones said.
It sparked the younger Jones’ interest in Tennessee so LaTrish Jones gets an assist for getting her daughter in orange, even if mama, a diehard Alabama fan, has vowed to never don a piece of clothing in that color.
Assistant coach Dean Lockwood also credited LaTrish Jones with letting her daughter know what it was like to play in the SEC.
“I think it’s a tremendous help,” Lockwood said. “She played in this league and knows what this league is about. I think no question that helps because she and her mom are obviously very, very close and having someone that is that close to you and loves you that way and that you love and they’re feeding you that, it helps feed your dreams and your vision of where you would like to go.
“From a practical standpoint she could tell her the SEC is physical, the SEC is athletic, the SEC you’ve got to have multidimensional skills.
“And I think she also played for a very good AAU coach, Doug Bush. He has helped her a lot. He deserves credit for her early development and last year she played for a very good high school coach (Tim Miller). All of those things have helped her get where she is.”
Jones, the 6A Player of the Year at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala., committed to Tennessee in February of 2011 and stuck with her decision after Pat Summitt announced in August of that same year that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. Holly Warlick, who is now the head coach with Summitt in an emeritus role, had helped to recruit Jones.
“I wasn’t able to be a player for Pat Summitt, and Holly (being here) will help,” Jones said. “This is where I’ve always wanted to be, and I was sure that coach Summitt was still going to be around. Just her presence alone is really great.”
Jones reported to Tennessee in excellent physical condition and with upper body strength, which is vital for a player who wants to get to the paint in college.
Jones headed home this week – the players practiced early Wednesday morning, attended class and then were released for several days for fall break – and when asked what she planned to do, she smiled.
“Sleep. Catch up on some homework,” Jones said.
Warlick has lauded Jones’ work ethic and has said when the freshman realizes how good she already is – combined with her already-in-place effort – she will really blossom as a player.
“I will work hard. I know that much,” Jones said. “And hard work will pay off, and I am just waiting for it to pay off. Whatever they need me to do, either on the bench cheering everybody on or on the floor, rebounding, whatever they need.”
The coaches have made it clear they expect contributions from Jones on the court. Jones is very shy off the court but has shown she will assert herself on it. Official practice started Sunday when the coaches can see the full team in sustained workouts, and Jones has impressed them.
“In our first four practices, she has probably done more – and we’ve known she is a good player; I saw her in eighth grade – but she’s probably done more to impress us early than we were expecting,” Lockwood said.
“Her rebounding has been tremendous. She is great at rebounding outside of her area. She will swoop in. She is not Glory yet, but she’s got a Glory-esque quality to her rebounding.”
That is high praise because Glory Johnson finished her career with 1,218 rebounds. Only three other Lady Vols hit four digits on the boards – Holdsclaw, the career leader with 1,295; Sheila Frost with 1,043; and Catchings with 1,004. Candace Parker would have joined the group, but she used just three years of eligibility after knee surgery when she was a freshman and finished with 972 rebounds.
Jones, a 6-2 forward with ball skills, also can get to the paint and score.
“She’s gone to the basket off the drive, taken the ball to the basket and a very nice first step, so I really think she will be ready,” Lockwood said.
“If she continues to practice like this – which that is the key, she is practicing well – I think she will be able to help us right away, sooner rather than later.”
INSIDE TENNESSEE VIDEO COVERAGE