Courtesy: Atlantic 10 Conference

Former GW Women's Basketball Star Jonquel Jones on Growing up in the Bahamas and making it to the WNBA

By Atlantic 10 Conference

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"High school is hard enough right? For anyone. But when you’re coming from a whole different culture? In ninth grade? Oh my gosh. I have this image in my mind, and it’s so random, but I just remember going to my first basketball practice, and I had just come off the plane from the Bahamas with all my stuff — literally from the airport — and I ran into the locker room to change, and I’m already late, so I forgot to put some lotion on, and I look down at my knees and I’m like …. 

Jonquel, no!!!!!!!!

Oh my gosh, you’re gonna be ashy at your first practice! This is a problem!!!!!

I was literally hunched over the sink in the bathroom, splashing water all over my knees in a panic. That’s exactly how I remember my first two years of high school in the States. Just so out of my element and awkward. And it wasn’t even like I was killing it on the court. I was so raw that they had me on the JV team in the 10th grade. 

When I made it to varsity, I was riding the bench. I’ll never forget what my teammate said to me one night. I was sitting on the bench, watching the game, bummed out … and she just turns to me out of the blue and says, “You know, if I came all the way from the Bahamas? To like … Maryland? And I wasn’t even playing? I think I’d like … just go home.” 

Girl. 

Why. 

I used to call my dad, complaining, crying, and he would tell me, “Do not come back here. Do not come back. This is your dream.” 

I needed to hear that. It gave me a lot of strength. Those first two years, I poured everything into trying to get better and better. I would just shoot, shoot, shoot. Constantly. It would be the middle of a snowstorm, and mind you I didn’t even know about snow until I got to Maryland, and I’d be out in the driveway shooting jumpers in these gloves that I got from Walmart — the ones with the finger flaps. And you always had to have a broom, because the ball would get stuck in the frozen net, and you’d have to poke it out. 

I don’t know, I just loved it. You either love it or you don’t. 

I hit my growth spurt at the end of 10th grade, and after that, it was on. I remember I got my first recruitment letter from Brown University, and I am not ashamed to say that I was going c r a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a z z z z z z z y.

That was such a great phone call, telling my parents the news, after everything that we had been through. My mom and dad really held our family together through so much. People think of the Bahamas as just fancy resorts and everything, like it just sprung up out of nowhere for people to go on vacation, but my family had lived on our land for generations. We’ve been there for a long, long time, and we’re really close. So for them to let me go away all alone at 14 to pursue my dream of being a professional athlete … especially a female professional athlete … it’s amazing to me. 

Pretty much every step of the way to the WNBA, I had these moments when I’d call them, freaking out, crying about how I was never going to make it, and they’d tell me exactly what I needed to hear. But I gotta be honest with you. I gotta be honest for every single kid reading this who might know exactly what I’m talking about…. When I was in college, and I started figuring out who I really was, whenever I would fly back home to the Bahamas, I wasn’t really going back as me. 

I was acting like the person I thought I was expected to be. I’d be coming off that plane wearing dresses! Super proper, super conservative. Even when I got drafted into the W, it was such a crazy moment, because they rolled out the red carpet — literally — for me and Buddy. They actually had a motorcade for us and everything, and people were lining the streets. But I was still kind of wearing those scars from what happened when I was 12 with my soccer coach, and I didn’t know how to be myself. 

For me, everything changed when I went to play abroad during my first couple of WNBA offseasons. That’s when I really found my strength. I found it through pain, man! Suffering! 

I mean, you think we don’t grind? Listen, I challenge any Twitter Hater to go play ball in South Korea. Just go over there and try to finish one practice with Asan Woori Bank Wibee and I promise you’ll be CRYING."

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