Senior spotlight: LaBrittney Jones unfazed by turmoil and turnover
Arizona forward LaBrittney Jones (24) dribbles down the court during Arizona's 76-72 loss to CSU Bakersfield on Nov. 17 in McKale Center. Jones and the Wildcats have lost two straight to open the season.
Being a senior leader of a program that is taking on a major culture change isn’t easy, but the Wildcats women’s basketball team will rely heavily on forward LaBrittney Jones.
Just imagine: an experienced player like Jones has done it all and seen it all her first three years with a losing program. Year after year, losing and dealing with a situation where deep down she knew the program was struggling and no hope was in sight.
It would’ve been easy for a player like Jones to sign a few papers and transfer somewhere else, but she is now back to square one in terms of fundamentals and buying into first year head coach Adia Barnes’ system.
“I bought in immediately,” Jones said. “It’s my senior year and I just had to buy in from the beginning… I’m ready to take on what [Adia Barnes] wants to bring us is just what I have to do.”
One accomplishment Jones never experienced was more basketball once the Pac-12 Tournament ended. A veteran like Jones is ready to lead the team and establish a foundation that Barnes can lean on for future success.
“Players like [LaBrittney Jones] are invaluable. She is a leader vocally and sometimes by just work ethic,” Barnes said.
In Jones’ first three seasons in Tucson, the program went 29-63, and the state of the program was in shambles the way former head coach Niya Butts left it.
Jones firmly believes Barnes was the perfect match for the program in her final season.
“It was good for our program, because knowing that we had to get a coach that actually played here and kind of went through the same thing around this campus and how good of a player she was, I think that was amazing for us,” Jones said. “She can relate to us and we can relate to her and I think that’s what matters the most."
For Jones, she’s coming off a season where she was the defensive anchor leading the team in total rebounds and steals as well as holding down the fort in the paint. When Butts was at the helm, the team primarily focused on defense, and rightfully so, considering the Wildcats were and still are undersized.
Arizona is taking a step closer to strategic defensive sets with Barnes, as well as using their lack of size to bring out big defenders to open up the offense.
Jones led the team in scoring last season, averaging 12.6 points per game, but Barnes will use the senior forward on the perimeter more this season.
Jones’ 6-foot-1 frame allows her to play multiple positions, so if she can play the hybrid shooting guard and small forward position, then she should be in for an interesting season.
“She’s using me differently. I’m not playing inside as much as I was before so I’m able to expand out more,” Jones said.
It’s expected for a leader to simply pick up a new position and role as if it was a walk in the park, but adapting to a new position while being a player that drives and sometimes has her back to the basket is like teaching an old dog new tricks.
It’s going to take some time for Jones to find her stride shooting from the outside consistently, but she’s honoring the process one day at a time.
“It was a little difficult, because I felt like I was going back to elementary days, but the fundamentals are the most important thing,” Jones said. “I’m not perfect at everything, but working on it isn’t going to make me worse.”
The culture change is different for the Arizona women’s basketball program, but Jones is expected to turn heads and will take on anything that stands in her way.
Her experience on the court and knowledge off the court will make her an impact player. Jones was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic Team in 2016 and with the newly built C.A.T.S. Academic Center opening up, her leadership will show itself in academics.
Whether it’s keeping her nose in a book or kicking off the new era of Arizona women’s basketball, Jones will take on a familiar, but tuned, role with this season’s team.
“It’s a lot to take on, but we’re all open and me being a senior, I’m just ready for whatever honestly,” Jones said.
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