January 6, 2011 8:42:00 AM
Kierra Jones knows what she can do on the basketball floor.
If everything is going the right way, Jones can be a deadly perimeter shooter and a potent rebounder as a guard.
But the East Mississippi Community College sophomore admits everything didn''t go perfectly in the first gpart of the season.
Bothered by a staph infection, Jones battled through inconsistent play and the Lady Lions overcame an injury to their starting point guard to finish 2010 with a 6-4 record.
Jones and EMCC will look to get the new year started right at 5:30 tonight when they play host to Shelton State. The EMCC men''s game against Shelton State will follow at 7:30 p.m.
Jones, a former standout at Starkville High, transferred to EMCC after spending a year at Meridian C.C. This season, she is third on the team in scoring (8.1 points per game) and rebounding (4.4). She is shooting 45 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free-throw line.
As impressive as those numbers might appear, Jones knows she can do better, and she intends to show she can raise her game this year.
"I have to work harder in practice and I have to start rebounding more to limit the other team''s ability to get more points," Jones said. "I know I have not been playing up to those standards."
Jones scored in double figures in her first four games at EMCC. Thanks to strong play with freshman point guard Kiara Noa-Quinones, Jones averaged 11.5 points and Noa-Quinones had 15 assists. But a sprained medial collateral knee ligament sidelined Noa-Quinones, the team''s second leading scorer, and forced Jones and her teammates to re-adjust.
The switch was trying at times for Jones, who relied on Noa-Quinones to break defenses down and to kick the ball to her for open shots. Even though Noa-Quinones, who is from Puerto Rico, is learning to speak English, Jones said they were able to forge a bond on the court with non-verbal communication. She said a look or a wave of the hand would help her signal Noa-Quinones she was open and ready for a pass to hit a shot.
With a half of season to reflect on, Jones said she is in better shape and ready to write a different ending. This one will have her play a more active role as a rebounder and a more aggressive player on offense.
That''s a script EMCC coach Sharon Thompson will enjoy reading.
"The biggest thing with KeKe (Jones) consistency," Thompson said. "We only had one player (freshman Chadisty Hickman) play consistently in the first semester."
Thompson said Jones isn''t the only sophomore who needs to pick things up. She said the Lady Lions need to improve defensively and rebounding if they want to realize their potential this season. Jones'' ability to deliver on her promise will make things easier in both ends of the floor.
"She can stroke it from 15 feet out and can knock that down," Thompson said. "She is more comfortable facing up as opposed to playing with her back to the bucket. We''re going to try this semester to utilize that more and do a better job from the coaching staff to put the kids in positions where there are comfortable."
Jones agrees with Thompson and knows the team has what it takes to play defense and to rebound like Thompson wants. She said the team is going to be "unstoppable" if it does those things.
As for her game, Jones will focus on getting better position and boxing out when she rebounds and re-connecting with Noa-Quinones to get back on track on offense.
"I am ready," Jones said. "I intend to show everything (in the second half of the season), not just scoring and rebounding. I also am going to pick up my defense. Like I said, the offense is going to come, whether it is a layup, a jump shot, or a free throw. We just have to get stops."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.