April 5, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Ashley Jones had no idea she was going to win the state of Florida''s most prestigious basketball award.
Five months ago, she didn''t even know if she would play basketball her senior season at Winter Park Lake Howell High School.
But the Mississippi State women''s basketball signee recovered from a liver infection to become the school''s all-time leading scorer and to lead Winter Park (29-2) to the Class 5A state title, its first in school history.
Jones'' performance this season helped her earn another honor. On Wednesday, Jones was chosen the Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Basketball winner. The award is voted on by state high school coaches and state sportswriters.
On Thursday, Jones was honored at her school. The award helped Lake Howell become the first program to have a boys and a girls basketball player win the Dairy Farmers award.
The University of Florida''s Nick Calathes won the award in 2006 and ''07.
Jones received 128 points to edge Miramar Parkway''s Erica Wheeler, a Rutgers signee, by 11 points. She won the Class 5A Player of the Year to be eligible for the Dairy Farmers'' honor.
"I am really excited and happy to share the award with the team and the coaches," Jones said. "We all worked hard, so when one person gets recognized it shows how strong the team is."
Jones, a 5-foot-11 guard/forward, averaged 21 points, 3.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.5 steals and shot 58 percent from the field this season. She signed a national letter of intent to play for the Lady Bulldogs in November, one day after getting out of the hospital.
Jones was out of school all of November and for half of December with a severe liver infection. She said doctors weren''t able to determine why her liver failed.
The mysterious ailment kept her out of action for the beginning of the season and scrapped all of the conditioning and weight training work she had done to prepare for the season.
"When I first came back I would run up and down the floor twice and I felt like I needed an oxygen tank," Jones said. It was definitely hard getting back, but the team and the coaches were really supportive and helped me get back to where I was and to a whole new level."
Jones said she didn''t start to feel herself again until the state playoffs, when Lake Howell concluded its run to the state title.
Jones scored 31 points in a state semifinal victory against Pensacola Pine Forest and then had 12 points in a 50-39 victory against Nova on Feb. 27. She finished her career with 1,952 points.
Throughout her season, she kept track of Mississippi State on its run to the NCAA tournament. She said she was excited to see the Lady Bulldogs earn their first NCAA bid in six years and is eager to join the program to help it take another step forward in 2009-10.
"I liked the way they played this year," Jones said. "Near the end of the season they played with a lot of intensity. I was really impressed with Tysheka Grimes and her intensity and Alexis (Rack), Armelie (Lumanu), and Chanel (Mokango). I love the way they worked together. I am really excited to be a part of that next year."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.