Entering this season, women’s basketball head coach Jonathan Tsipis has an advantage that no other coach in the Atlantic 10 can claim: two all-conference forwards who compete against each other every day in practice.
After impressive debuts for both players put them on the conference radar, Caira Washington and Jonquel Jones head into their second seasons together as the starting frontcourt for Tsipis. The two combine to form arguably the best one-two punch in the Atlantic 10, an element that only helps the duo day-in and day-out at practice.
Both admitted that when matching up against one another, their competitive natures seemingly take over, especially when it comes to rebounding. But Jones said the competition drives them to improve.
“At the end of the day, we have to let each other know that we’re here for each other regardless of what happened in practice,” Jones said. “If you beat me up a little bit or if I beat you up a little bit we have a lot of love for each other and take care of each other.”
Washington and Jones work in tandem, using complementary styles of play to disrupt defenses and create advantages for one another. Washington has a particularly strong inside game, and Jones has the ability to knock down a jumper from most places on the floor.
“[Jonquel] can really step out on three-pointers, which gives me space to work down low,” Washington said. “It makes it really convenient for us to set up and makes us hard to guard.”
The compatibility between the duo on the court is no different than the friendship they share on the baseline. Jones and Washington’s relationship is filled with laughs as each waits to subtly one-up the other whenever possible.
“She’s my sister and I would do anything for her,” Jones said. “If you have that relationship off the court, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them on the court.”
When talking about how they don’t let on-court competition affect their relationship off the court, Jones said after a drill the two “dap each other up and keep it moving.”
“Sorry you lost,” Washington said jokingly to Jones as both threw playful jabs and began laughing.
While both Jones and Washington have pushed themselves in practice this offseason, they also have looked to improve their own individual games.
Jones finished last season as the only A-10 player to average a double-double (14.7 points and 10.9 rebounds), and was selected to the All-Conference second team.
Jones came to GW following a single season with Clemson. After she was forced to sit out the first 11 games last year as per NCAA transfer rules, Jones said she is looking forward to having a full season with her teammates.
“It’s been a long preseason, a lot of work, so I’m excited to get out there and play with them on a journey from the beginning and finish off with them as well,” Jones said.
Washington is coming off a year in which she was named A-10 Rookie of the Year and selected to the All-Conference third team as well as the All-Rookie team. Washington became the 10th player in GW history to be named Rookie of the Year and the first since Kimberly Beck in 2005.
She’s also the first GW freshman to make an All-Conference team since Erica Lawrence did so in 2000. Washington led the conference in both field goal percentage (56 percent) and offensive rebounds per game (3.9).
This offseason, Washington said she has focused on refining her footwork and dedicating hours to the weight room. She said she understands that after a decorated freshman season, she’ll likely be scouted in every game she plays.
“I think there’s always gonna be a target on your back no matter what,” Washington said. “I think it’s really about going out there and playing your game and not worry about what the other team is trying to do.”
Jones was named to the preseason All-Conference first team, while Washington was selected to the All-Conference second team. Both were selected for the preseason All-Conference defensive team.
“It’s always great to be recognized and know that people recognize your ability,” Jones said. “But at the end of the day, we have to go out there and work hard enough to make it happen.”