By Ben York
Picture this: You end a historic college career at Maryland with a bang. Not only do you lead the nation in field goal percentage (69.0), you tally 26 double-doubles and average 19.9 points and 10.9 rebounds en route to being named a first-team All-American.
Two weeks later, you’re selected as the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft. Then, in just a few days, you’re back into full-blown “basketball mode” as you begin your first training camp at the professional level.
That’s the life of Sun rookie, Brionna Jones, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m just so excited,” Jones said. “I know that sounds so generic but it’s true. Everything has been crazy over the last month. One minute you’re in college, the next minute you’re drafted and now you’re in camp. It’s a lot to navigate through, but the organization has been great helping me get acclimated.”
Jones said she’s actually thankful for the grind of training camp because it’s something she’s familiar with – unlike the various off-court obligations that come with the transition to the pros.
“Being on the court brings a sense of calmness to me,” Jones added. “It’s what I know. I’ve been playing forever, so being back in the gym is certainly comforting.”
Being comfortable from the start is a good sign, because the Sun may look for Jones to produce quickly in 2017 – especially with the loss of Chiney Ogwumike for the year.
“It’s something I’m ready for,” Jones said. “I know I’m a rookie but I’m ready to get in the paint and be physical. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll do.”
The WNBA is a vastly different environment than college. Players are bigger, stronger and more athletic. In many ways, it’s not something you realize until you step onto the floor and play. Jones has been an avid fan of the WNBA for years, so it certainly didn’t come as a surprise.
“It’s a lot faster,” Jones acknowledged. “They want the screens set faster, you have to roll faster – things like that. But I was prepared for that. Right away, I noticed the length and physicality is on a whole other level than in college. I definitely need to get used to it, but it’s something I prepared for.”
Her strength gives the Sun an immediate boost in the paint, but head coach and general manager Curt Miller also likes the way Jones finishes around the rim.
“Sometimes it takes players a while to pick up on the little intricacies of the professional game, but I don’t see that being an issue for Brionna,” Miller said. “She has a high basketball IQ and her toughness is impressive.”
Within minutes of watching her practice, it’s easy to see how much this opportunity means to Jones. She wants to be a member of the Sun, and she’s not resting on her laurels.
“It’s crazy,” Jones continued. “I watched these players on TV and now I’m playing with them. It’s exciting…and a little nerve wracking. I’m just going to learn as much as I can and get better every day.”