Alexis Jones is Striving for a Spot
June 4, 2011 • Orlando, Fla.
Like millions of teenagers each year, Alexis Jones is spending a week of her summer at Walt Disney World Resorts in Florida. Unlike most teenagers, however, she will not step one foot in any of the many theme parks at the resort.
Jones is one of 15 of the nation’s top 19-and-unders practicing twice a day in an effort to make the final cut for the 12-member 2011 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Championship Team, which will look to defend the USA’s gold medal at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship July 21-31 in Chile.
A member of the 2010 USA U18 National Team that qualified the U.S. for this summer’s competition, Jones started all five games and averaged 8.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game as the U.S. swept its competition en route to the gold medal.
A rising senior at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, Jones followed her golden summer with a 2011 Texas Class 5A state title and is hoping to continue her winning streak with another gold medal this summer and the school’s second state championship next spring.
“It felt good to win the championship with MacArthur, because I don’t think they ever won it before,” she said. “Hopefully we can win another one.”
Before concentrating on winning another state title, however, she needs to secure her spot on the USA U19 roster. Each of the 15 finalists are capable of contributing something different to the team, which will make the selection very difficult.
“My focus is really trying to play good defense, run the floor well and play the best that I can,” said Jones. “I think it’s been going pretty good for me, and I’m enjoying myself.
Jones said it’s not hard for her to stay focused and motivated. After all, she’s faced some stiff adversity in her young life that has tested her more than a USA Basketball try out ever could.
In 2007 the two-sport athlete – she also competed for her school’s track and field team this year – was asleep in the back of her family’s automobile when it slid on a slippery road and flipped over. The accident, which threw Alexis, her brother and a couple of her teammates out of the car, paralyzed her father from the chest down.
“It was pretty scary, because when we woke up we were outside of the car,” remembered Jones. “We didn’t know what to do. It was pretty scary.”
After the accident, her mom spent her time taking care of her dad and was unable to work. Everyone in the family pitched in and did what needed to be done. While he isn’t back to coaching her on a regular basis, her father, who is starting to get back into coaching, is one of her biggest fans.
“I always get motivated because my dad wants me to be the best and try my hardest,” Jones stated. “He thinks it’s real good that I’m out here, and he really hopes I make it. He really likes USA Basketball. He didn’t really coach me for this. He just told me to go out and play hard like I know I can.”
Jones has one more session to make her case to be on the team. The USA squad takes on Brazil’s U19 team on June 5 at 12:30 p.m. (EDT / live on ESPN3.com) and after the exhibition, players will find out which 12 will be making the trip to Chile.
So while Jones is smack in the middle of the Happiest Place on Earth, she’s not really thinking about missing out on the theme parks.
“I’m having fun out here with everyone,” she said. “It gets tiring at times, but it’s still fun. I’m still having fun, I try to play hard. I like the coaches.”
Is it hard being at Disney World and not being able to go to the parks?
“Yeah, it is. But that’s not why I’m here, she concluded. “I think it would be exciting to win another gold medal, especially to win it in Chile, because I’ve never been there before. I think it would be very cool if I win another one.”