lunes, 15 de marzo de 2010



The world witnessed both the rise to stardom and the fall from grace for Marion Jones in the sport of track and field. Now we all get to witness a new chapter in her life unfold after she became the newest member of the Tulsa Shock on Wednesday.

The road to Wednesday’s signing was not easy as there were a number of obstacles for Jones to overcome along the way. Consider that she is 34 years old (which already makes her the eighth oldest player in the league despite being a rookie), she is just eight months removed from giving birth to her third child, and she hasn’t played basketball since college.
As a freshman at North Carolina, Jones was the starting point guard of the Tar Heels’ national championship team. But that was back in 1994. Her final season of competitive basketball was the 1996-97 season, which ended just months before the debut of the WNBA. Clearly there was plenty of rust to shake off.
The first step in the comeback is complete as she has found a team and signed a contract. Now comes the tough part as she must continue to refine her game, introduce herself to her teammates, the league and the community, and compete against the best players in the world on a nightly basis.
Jones spoke with’s Brian Martin about her desire to revive her athletic career, her journey to this point, the challenges that lie ahead and what she hopes to accomplish by playing in the WNBA. What made you decide to attempt a return to the sports world by resurrecting your basketball career?

Jones: "There were a number of reasons. I really felt that I had more years of sport left in me. I have incredible passion for the game. A lot of people don’t remember but I played in college and I’m a big fan of the WNBA and its players. About 10 months ago the question arose whether I would ever attempt to play and it made me start to think a little bit and I made the decision that I was going to attempt it.

"In addition attempting this journey with all of its challenges it really does give me an opportunity to share my inspiring story to a much larger scale; to show people that although we all love sport, we love the game of basketball, life is much bigger than just sport and people need to see other people who have made mistakes in their life and it's really what you do after you make a mistake that you hope is how people remember you.

"There are a lot of different reasons. But I love the game, I want to play, I want to win, I’m really excited now about this new chapter and where I’ll be playing and who I’ll be playing for. It’s just a really exciting time right now." You touched on this a little in your last answer, but I’ll ask anyway. What do you hope to accomplish with this comeback? Is there a greater purpose than just wanting to compete once again?

Jones: "Well certainly. Not too many things I do these days I do lightly; everything has a broader plan. The first thing is that I want to win, I want to be with a franchise that wants to win; the goal is to win a WNBA championship. But even bigger than that, I want to get a chance, as I mentioned briefly, to share my message to young people, share my story of hope, of second chances, the whole idea that there is life beyond mistakes. And we want to win; we want to win ballgames. I want that too, I’m a competitor. I’m really excited to be on a team with Nolan Richardson, especially with his style of play, getting up and down the court. I think it will be really exciting for me and the fit is definitely there." Was there any trepidation about constantly being reminded about the past? By putting yourself back in the public eye, it's going to bring a lot of questions, was there any trepidation to do that?

Jones: "No. But I’m certainly not reminded of the past when I step on the court. I’m not reminded of the past every day I wake up. You’ve got to understand, Satchel Page said it best however many years ago when he said 'Don’t look back.' Don’t look back. You certainly use the experiences in your life to grow and to learn from, and there might be others who are really spending a lot of time and writing about things in the past, but I’m certainly not dwelling on it. This is a new journey for me, a new part of my existence and I’m going to take full advantage of. This is something that is new and I’m looking forward to it." Is part of the reason to come back to be able to go out on your own terms and have a new challenge and a new chapter in your life?

Jones: "Yes to the latter two, but not the first one. This is certainly a new challenge. The game of basketball has grown and become so much more skilled, with faster play, and better athletes from when I played so that makes it even more of a challenge. It would be one thing if I decided to play again and the game was exactly the same as when I left it, but now it’s even tougher. And to have not played for however many years and then to have to learn and re-learn certain skills makes it even that tougher, but it’s a wonderful challenge and it’s certainly showed me that I have to put in the work. These are some of the best athletes in the world that I’ll be competing against day in and day out. As you know most of the things that I do are scrutinized so I’m going to have to make sure that whatever I decide to do that I give it 100 percent effort and dedicate myself. I already had to make a lot of sacrifices in order to pursue this journey. And the first part of it of - making a team - is realized and now the hard part really just starts in order to form a team, learn a new style of play and for me it’s a whole new world. You have back-to-back games, a lot of traveling, and it’s not like one particular game is going to be easier than the other. The challenge is certainly there and I’m up for it."

"I’m really excited to be on a team with Nolan Richardson, especially with his style of play, getting up and down the court. I think it will be really exciting for me and the fit is definitely there."
Rich Crimi/NBAE/Getty Images You mentioned how much the game has changed. How do you feel you’ll be able to handle this new level of competition and perhaps change your game to play in the WNBA?

Jones: "It’s going to be tough. I think I made a good choice seven months ago to start working with one of the assistants for the San Antonio Silver Stars in Olaf Lange and Tonya Holley, who is the trainer there with the Silver Stars, simply because they know the sport, they coach in the WNBA, they know what to expect, they know what other coaches are looking for, so I’ve been able to learn and re-learn certain skills that are relevant for today’s style of game. So I think that was the first really good move on our part, finding somebody who is current, who is a great coach, great coaches who know what and how I need to look. I think at this point the skills are there, I can do the drills, it’s just going used to getting a real feel for the game because as you know it’s a lot more than just being able to dribble and shoot, it’s about making the right decisions at certain moments and quick reactions and things like that and really bonding with your teammates so everything flows just right on the basketball court. So getting used to all that is going to be the biggest adjustment and transition for me but I’m not all that concerned. I’m a pretty quick learner and I adapt well in most situations." You mentioned working out with San Antonio and working out for Tulsa. Were there any other WNBA teams that you visited and worked out for?

Jones: "I worked out for the Seattle team and Coach Agler. I didn’t work out for the San Antonio Silver Stars; I’ve been working out with the assistant coach in Olaf Lange so there wasn’t technically a tryout or workout for San Antonio. And of course we came here on Saturday and worked out and tried out for Coach Richardson and his staff. There were going to be a couple of other teams after this, but this one after Saturday just fell into place and we think that this is going to be the best fit for me." Was it odd having to tryout for something again? I’m sure it’s been a while since you’ve had to do that.

Jones: "Yeah, it was. (Laughs) It was not nerve-wracking, but it was definitely something new for me. I’m used to having to perform in front of lots of people, but it was definitely different. And it’s not just anybody who I was trying out for; you’re talking about a master of the game in Coach Nolan Richardson, so that’s a little bit stressful. He has seen the best of the best, he knows the game in and out and you want to show him that you are skilled, that you are committed, that you are passionate and I think in the limited time that he was able to see me that he saw what he needed to see obviously because we made the relationship work. But yeah it was a bit nerve-wracking (laughs)." What are your expectations of yourself coming into this season? You’ve always been the star, but are you ready to not necessarily be the star and be a role player on a team?

Jones: "I think that if the only thing I had to compare it to was the sport of track and field then it might be a little bit odd. But I have a good base in that I’ve been part of a team that achieved a lot of success in college and I realized then that you have to fill your role, so this is not something new. I’ve been away from it for a number of years but I know that I have to do the best job I can do, and everybody else as well, to make the team work well together. So I don’t think in that regard its going to be a big adjustment for me because I’ve had to do that in the past." Have you spent any time in city of Tulsa? Is there going to be an adjustment of getting to know a new city?

Jones: "This is my first time to Tulsa, two weeks ago when we came out here. But I’ve been given a little background on the city and spoken already to a number of people that are from here and from what I see the community is very supportive of the team that is here now and as I mentioned in the press conference, I think people just need to come out and watch us play one time, watch the style of play one time and you’ll be hooked. I’m actually really excited to come here. I’m presently living in Austin so it’s not too far for the family to have to travel. It would have been even more of a challenge had it been somewhere on the East coast or something like Seattle, that would have been a trek. But like I said early on, when we decided to do attempt this, we all knew that there were going to be sacrifices that we all had to make and that if this is something that I really wanted and we really wanted and if the fit was right, then we would make it happen wherever it was. It just so happened that is was closer to home which makes it nice." You mentioned a few times playing for Nolan Richardson and his style of play. It does seem like a great match for your skill set. How much of a factor was a finding a team that not only wanted you but also one that suited your game?

Jones: "The fact that Coach Richardson likes to run - he’s all over the court, defensively they’re very active, offensively you’re up and down the court and scoring quick baskets - for obvious reasons my speed certainly plays a big part in that. It’s interesting because it’s similar to how I played in college, when I played for Coach [Sylvia] Hatchel. It was very up-tempo, she likes to recruit young ladies who are athletes and can get up and down the court, so it was definitely a good fit." Since you left the game to pursue your track career were you involved with basketball at all, even if it was just shooting around or something simple?

Jones: "Nope. I’ll be honest with you, no. There may have been an occasional moment where if I was around the gym I would pick up the ball, but there were certainly no games of pickup for obvious reasons." Yeah, you don’t want to tweak an ankle. That wouldn’t go over well.

Jones: "Right, you don’t want that and then you have to tell sponsors that you turned your ankle playing basketball (laughs). I’m absolutely a big fan of the game, watched it, but there wasn’t much of me participating in it.

"But it comes down to a little bit like riding a bike; you know certain things, you know the game and you have a good foundation with the game. There are certainly things that I’ve learned and have to remember, but I have a good foundation in that I was coached by Sylvia [Hatchell] at UNC and her assistant coaches, who really were good teachers of the game, and I certainly think that’s helped me thus far." I'll let you go after one last question. What will determine for you whether this comeback is successful or not?

Jones: "That's a great question. Ultimately, if this journey really impacts the lives of others, whether it is the fans or people who just casually read about my story and they see something positive come out of a potentially really negative situation and people are inspired or motivated by the journey then I think it will be a success. (pause) And winning a WNBA championship for the Tulsa Shock. That wouldn’t hurt either."

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