This post was written by Hatchet reporter Josh Solomon
Just over two minutes into Saturday’s women’s basketball game, North Carolina A&T head coach Tarrell Robinson needed a timeout.
After watching sophomore transfer Jonquel Jones single handedly beat his ball club by scoring the first six points of the game, Robinson didn’t want his team losing anymore momentum.
A three-point field goal for the Aggies out of the break pointed in the right direction, but on the ensuing Colonials play, Jones could be found leaping for a cross court pass, working around an Aggie defender, and scoring for GW on a soft jumper from inside the paint. Momentum was back with the Colonials.
In a little over three and a half minutes into her highly-anticipated GW debut, Jones had eight points, two offensive rebounds and a steal.
For fans, they might not have expected this much right away, but for Jones and her teammates, these plays came naturally, as they had been practicing and preparing for Jones’ debut all season.
“It felt natural because we do it so much in practice. I play with those girls so much in practice that me feeling them out and knowing where to be and knowing where the passes are coming from and all that stuff really comes natural,” Jones said.
Jones would finished her debut with a double-double: 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Individual performances aside, the bigger story here is simple: GW is a different, and much improved team with Jones. The team as a whole looked more comfortable in their offense Saturday, not just because of the week of rest, but because they finally had one of their best players on the court.
It was a fact that made Jones and her teammates extremely excited; perhaps even too excited. Jackson said that Jones was so energized before the game that her teammates had to tell her to calm down.
“Last night I had to force myself to go to sleep because I was just so anxious to play,” said Jones, who had plenty of reason to be a little anxious after not playing in an official game since Dec. 2012.
But Jones’ presence on the court was, as she said, all natural, with little rust shake off. She immediately attracted defensive attention down low, spreading the floor for freshman Caira Washington and graduate students Megan Nipe and Danni Jackson. The three would help the offense run smoothly, cashing in on their open looks and open lanes. Nipe and Jackson would finish with 23 points and 21 points, respectively.
Her effect could also be seen on the defensive end, where she not only altered seemingly easy shots in the paint, but also caused disruption within the GW press. Jones played the front of head coach Jonathan Tsipis’s 1-3-1 press, creating havoc for smaller Aggie guards with her massive wingspan. Jones called her size the difference in helping the press be “intimidating.”
Jones did get into foul trouble early in the first half – grabbing two fouls with seven minutes remaining in the first half – but still managed to play 26 effective minutes. Although it’s only been one game, the continued presence and production from Jones as the season moves forward could be the thing that sets the Colonials season back on track.
“It felt really good to just be able to play my first game with a group of girls that I don’t even consider to be my teammates; I consider them to be my sisters,” Jones said.