Jasmine Jones couldn’t help but see her 10-year-old self in tattered basketball shoes and a two-sizes-too-large jersey as she stepped inside Cullman High’s gymnasium.
Jones, a former Bob Jones standout and current Tennessee Volunteer, was on hand Thursday morning to coach up and motivate the future of the Lady Bearcat hoops program at their inaugural skills camp put on by coaches Jessica Posey (junior varsity) and Jonathan Hayes (varsity).
More than 50 aspiring female athletes were front and center for Jones’s teachings. While ages ranged from 7 to 13, there’s one thing all campers had in common.
They all listened with baited breath.
Jones opened the camp with a pep talk before breaking off in various groups to hone in on shooting, passing and defensive skills. The Lady Vol couldn’t have been more thrilled spend a day giving back to the game she loves.
“That’s the fun part of it,” she said. “It’s always fun to be at these type settings. Just being able to watch these girls grow and develop their skills through our drills is amazing. That was me out there once upon a time, so I know how they’re feeling.”
Jones graduated in 2012 as one of the best athletes to ever come through Bob Jones. She led her team to a Class 6A state basketball championship in 2011 and reached the finals during her senior year. Jones was an All-State selection and Birmingham Super 5 honoree during her final three seasons with the program. She also nabbed the label of Miss Basketball and Gatorade State Player of the Year in 2012. Jones averaged 21 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots in her senior campaign to notch a basketball scholarship from the University of Tennessee.
To say she’s qualified to participate in this camp would be an egregious understatement.
“It’s a blessing that she was open and willing to come help us out,” Hayes said. “She came here to invest her time and talent. It’s just a great thing for us. She is what our girls can strive to be in the future. Success like that doesn’t happen overnight or when you show up in October for the first practice. It’s a work that you put in all year long to work on your skills, weaknesses and even your strengths. Hopefully she’s inspired all the ladies here to be better.”
It just so happened that Jones is a former member of Baylee Johnson’s — Cullman’s star point guard — Southern Starz AAU team based in Huntsville. She happened to be at a camp where Posey and her husband, Shane, were able to reach out and ask if she’d be interested in making a visit.
Jones didn’t hesitate in accepting the offer, thus leading to the Black and Gold coaches’ ability to host a successful camp.
“This has been great for us,” Posey said. “Coach Hayes and I are really focused on building our program. Jasmine showed all the girls the things they can do to be successful in basketball. We’ve already talked to her about coming back, and she’d just love to. As long as they keep me around, I’ll do this camp.”
For Jones, the dream of playing college basketball for coach Pat Summitt and the Tennessee program was one forged long ago in the fifth grade.
Although she didn’t understand the work she’d have to put in at the time, Jones quickly learned anything short of being great would never help her achieve her lofty goal.
That was the message she hoped to convey to the campers on Thursday.
“The work you’ve got to put in is fun, but it’s hard,” she said. “Once they get to the stage where they can do that consistent and constant, everything will fall into place for them.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.