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Sunday, November 4, 2012

University of Memphis's Ann Jones healthy, focused for sophomore season

from Commercial Appeal 

University of Memphis sophomore Ann Jones is excited about Saturday's 2 p.m. exhibition game against Rhodes College.

At the same time, the 6-3 post player is just as nervous as she was this time a year ago. That's because in a lot of ways, Jones is still like a freshman.

The Jackson, Tenn., native was just starting to feel comfortable as a college player when she injured her knee four minutes into the Tigers' Conference USA opener last January against Tulane. Jones, who at the time was the Tigers' first post player off the bench, missed the next six games. By the time she returned, the Tigers were in the thick of the conference race.

Jones not only had fallen behind, she had no clue about how intense each game had become. Her playing time and production dropped.

"I guess once I got injured, I kind of lost my focus," she said. "I've never been injured before. I kind of lost hope, but you've got to work hard.

"Conference play is intense and everybody is trying to get to the top and I wasn't ready for that. It was really hard. (My confidence) went down a lot, but I tried to rebuild it, and my teammates helped me with that."
Jones went on to finish her freshman year averaging 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds. Those numbers will have to increase dramatically this season as she is being counted on to help a young, inexperienced frontcourt overcome the departure of last year's C-USA Player of the Year, Jasmine Lee.

So far, coach Melissa McFerrin likes what she has seen from Jones.

"I think Ann came in with a very high motivation level this year," McFerrin said. "She remembers two years ago when we recruited her, saying when you're a sophomore, we're going to need you to be ready to play.
"Like all sophomores, I think she's had a little bit of an up-and-down time in the early part of the season. It's awfully difficult to ask a first-semester sophomore to be as consistent as we'd ask an upperclassman to be. But nonetheless, those are the demands that we're putting on her."

Last year, Lee led the Tigers in scoring (15.2 ppg) and rebounding (10.2). While Jones isn't expected to duplicate those numbers, she will be counted on to come as close as possible. As a senior at Liberty Magnet School, she averaged 16 points and 12 boards.

The Tigers will be looking for her to score in transition, as well as in the post, and off offensive rebounds, all areas where Lee excelled. But unlike Lee, the taller Jones has the potential to be more of a defensive presence with her long arms.

"I'm working hard, trying to maintain a strong focus until we actually start the season so I'll be a good example for the newcomers," Jones said. "I think my expectations are set higher because I'm a sophomore and I know the system a little bit better."

The Tigers open the regular season Friday at home against Grambling State in a preseason WNIT game.

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