Michelle Smith Women’s Basketball Feature: Stanford's Haley Jones
Haley Jones is that person who goes into the hotel room, immediately unpacks her bag and fills up the drawers. When the Cardinal arrived in Las Vegas last week to settle in for an extended stay, she did what she always does.
“But I don’t know when we are going to be packing up again. Things are in the air. We don’t really have a plan,” Jones said.
Jones is talking about the uncertainty surrounding the college basketball schedule and where and when the next game is going to come. As far as her sophomore season, Jones absolutely has a plan.
Make up for the time lost when she was injured halfway through her freshman season, and make an impact in every minute she’s on the floor. So far, so good.
Jones, the 6-foot-1 versatile guard from Santa Cruz who came to Stanford a year ago as the No. 1 recruit in the country, was named Pac-12 Player of the Week last week for a pair of stellar efforts on back-to-back days. She put up 25 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists on Friday against UNLV and followed up in the No. 2-ranked Cardinal’s Pac-12 opener with 29 points and 13 rebounds in 27 minutes. She is averaging 23.3 points and 10.3 rebounds a game, leading the Pac-12 in scoring and ranking second in rebounding and fifth in assists at 4.3 assists per game.
“She lets the game come to her,” said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. “She doesn’t try to do too much and she plays with her head up. She plays with a lot of confidence and she makes good decisions.”
Jones said her goal was not to come back as the same player she was last year, but to be better for her team and herself.
“My season was cut extra short last year, so I've been so happy to be out there playing,” Jones said. “Being a freshman last year, you want to make an impact, but you don’t want to be over-aggressive because this isn’t high school. You find out the little ways you can help, but it’s a different mindset and a different role."
“This year I’m definitely more hungry. I feel like I need to prove myself after last year, to be even better and more aggressive.”
The knee injury that ended Jones’ freshman season last January at Oregon State was the first of her basketball career. She said she never really considered before what it would be like to be hurt, or rehabilitating to get back on the floor. She called it a “bit of a shock.”
Jones acknowledged she struggled as her teammates hit the road for games, felt isolated as she did her rehab while the team practiced in Maples or she had to go to a doctor’s appointment.
“Thankfully, they were always checking on me when they were on the road and stopping by my room to tell me everything that happened, but it was definitely a different experience being by myself,” Jones said. “And then when we got sent home because of COVID, I wasn’t seeing anyone. I felt very removed from the team.”
Jones’ summer of rehab was also a summer of Zoom calls and long-distance team bonding.
“Haley plays her cards close, she is not an outwardly demonstrative person,” VanDerveer said. “But she seems very happy and she’s playing at a very high level. Great players make others around her better and she is doing that.”
Now the players are keeping a very close circle as they move through this unusual, and sometimes unsettling season.
Which is why Jones, the first No. 1 recruit to come to Stanford since Chiney Ogwumike in 2010, is not taking her experience for granted now no matter how much uncertainty the season will throw her way.
“Our team motto is ‘All in’. We know the season could end at any moment so we are taking it as we go,” Jones said. “We are on our toes all the time, and making this the best it can be. There’s no reason to be a ‘Debbie Downer’ about it. There are no wasted days.”