Photo by Joi Williams / MTSU Sidelines
Coming to a new town is never an easy feat, but it’s more challenging when you come in as a freshman student-athlete who plays on a Division I women’s basketball team.
For the Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders, Anna Jones is that athlete.
The freshman guard comes to MTSU from Jackson, Tennessee, where she was a star at the University School of Jackson. She was a decorated player there, as she became the all-time leading scorer with 2,794 career points.
Although she accomplished a lot in high school, her collegiate career didn’t get off to the best start. She didn’t score more than five points in a game until the Lady Raiders played their third conference game of the season.
Finding a role in a system with a lot of upperclassmen guards is hard, but you have to set yourself apart from the rest. While Jones appears to have found hers, it wasn’t always like that.
“She was trying to figure out her role and hoped everybody would like her,” Insell said. “When you’re in a sport, you don’t worry about if people like you because everybody is competing for one of those positions.”
Relationships with your teammates are extremely important. If someone else is struggling, the team will falter as well.
“(The guards) have been so helpful to me,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter if they are having a great practice or a tough practice. They are giving me a pat on the back or telling me something that will help me get more comfortable in the flow of the offense.”
It could be a word of encouragement or just more advice on the game as a whole. This is just one of a few ways that upperclassmen can help their younger counterparts.
“Whenever I see her doing anything, I’m always trying to give her little tips of advice,” Sissom said. “Because I’ve been through this for four years, I’ve got a little bit of experience over her. With the things I’ve learned along the way, I’m trying to pass on down to her.”
Sometimes even the man in charge will give some words of encouragement.
“I’m just letting (Jones) know that I’ve got confidence in her,” Insell said. “She’s going to make some mistakes because she’s a freshman. She’s got a lot of basketball savvy, a good basketball IQ and great touch. Every time she shoots it, it’s got a chance to go in.”
Jones is starting the new year off right. In six games played, she’s scoring 12.2 points per game. She’s been even better in her last four games, as she has averaged 16.3 points per contest, which almost quadruples her season average of 4.8 points.
She really shined when MTSU played the University for Texas-El Paso, when she scored 30 points on 10-17 shooting and eight three-point makes. Those eight long-range shots also tied her for the most in a single game by a freshman in school history.
“She’s gone on a little roll,” said senior guard Abbey Sissom. “Our coaching staff always says when someone has the hot hand, keep going to them. I think that game gave her a lot of confidence, and it’s carried over to these games.”
While it may appear that she’s only recently had the green light to shoot, Insell gave that privilege to her from the start of her career.
“All of them have the green light,” Insell said. “As matter of fact, they don’t shoot it near enough for me. (Jones) is the same way.”
Her development is the key to all of this late success, as it has given the team a secondary scoring option when they need it.
“I have seen her grow,” Insell said. “She’s worked on her toughness, and now she’s trying to lead us a little bit more. She’s trying to be a little more vocal as a freshman, and that’s just the growing process.”
With her growth, there’s no reason why she couldn’t end up as one of the greatest Lady Raiders in program history.
To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email email@example.com.