Asjha Jones – Washington Mystics
During their careers at the University of Connecticut, Asjha Jones and her fellow classmates Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Tamika Williams were all but inseparable. Even in last year’s WNBA draft, their four names were called within the top six slots, with Jones going to the Washington Mystics as the fourth pick. But this past off-season, while her former classmates stayed stateside, Jones chose to test the waters of basketball in Samara, Russia.
“The first month was really tough,” admitted Jones, “[being] out of the country for so long, away from my family and friends.” Though she’d spoken with veterans like Mystics teammate Vicky Bullett about what she might encounter abroad, “it was my first time,” Jones said, “and nothing can prepare you for your first time.” Fortunately, fellow WNBAers Tammy Sutton-Brown of the Sting and the Sparks’ Mwadi Mabika were teammates and, she added with a laugh, “lifesavers.”
Playing in Russia gave Jones a chance to face a high level of competition every game – something she didn’t always encounter during her college career. “Every team was loaded with talent,” said Jones. “Night after night, you’d had no idea what would happen.” While she averaged close to 20 minutes a game, similar to her WNBA rookie year, Jones’ field goal percentage improved significantly from 33% to 46%, something she hopes to carry into her second WNBA season. “Scoring in the lane is a lot more difficult,” observed Jones of the pro game. “You have to face up more. I’m not going to be able to just back people down.”
On the defensive end, Jones knows that with Bullett’s retirement, the Mystics find themselves undersized. “I’m considered one of the more physical defenders,” said the 6’2″ forward. “I think [Coach Stanley] is going to look to me to protect the lane a lot more than I did last year.”
One thing Jones knows she must improve on is her relationship with the referees. “Last year I would get in foul trouble just about every game,” recalled Jones. “As a rookie you’re not going to get away with everything,” she said with a grin. “They caught me on a lot of little things. This year I hopefully won’t make the same mistakes.”