Asjha Jones has represented many things for many years on many levels; indispensible, solid to the core things that have helped her basketball teams since her freshman season at UConn in 1998-99.
But she has never been overly emotional or sentimental about herself or her circumstances. And not even be invited to play in her first Olympiad this summer in London is going to change that.
“I am excited about it all, but I just take each day as it comes,” Jones said Tuesday. “Playing and practicing each day in the WNBA makes it that way, you can’t take anything for granted as a result. But playing for the Olympic team is a great honor. But right, getting ready for this team [the Connecticut Sun] is what I need to do. The Olympics don’t started until July.”
After helping a sensational winter in Spain, where she was chosen the MVP of the EuroLeague’s Elite Eight playoffs, Jones was not originally added to the Olympic team that will be coached by UConn’s Geno Auriemma and will feature five other former Huskies – Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Swin Cash.
But when Baylor’s Brittney Griner announced she could not fill the 12th roster spot because of personal reasons, USA Basketball added Jones.
“I would like to think that it’s a coincidence,” Auriemma said last week. “I would like to think that regardless of who the coach was, there’s a pretty good chance that every one of those players would be on this team. They earned it. All the accolades that these players have gotten, they didn’t get those accolades because they played at UConn. They got those accolades because of what they’ve done in their pro careers since they left Connecticut. That speaks to their talent and their level of being able to win at every level they’ve been at. They didn’t make the team because I’m the coach. They made the team because they deserve to be on the team.’’
It’s for that reason Jones does not feel she made the team solely because Griner, the 6-8 center on the 2012 NCAA national champs, could not play,
“I’m to blame for my opportunity,” Jones said smiling. “I’ve played for USA Basketball for awhile now. I won a World Championship [in 2010]. It was just a reward. But I don’t work like that. If went. I tried. If I didn’t make it, I didn’t make it. I played hard, gave USA Basketball my time and my energy. If they decided to put me on the team it would been great. But not making a 12-player team comprised of the best players in the nation is not something you can dwell on for long.”
Jones may be the most overlooked played on the Olympic team, one whose true value to a team lies as much in her professionalism as her still vibrant ability.
“I don’t feel like that [overlooked]. I know people around me do. When I was voted the MVP of the Elite Eight [of the EuroLeague playoffs] my friends would say you should have been on the Olympic team. I don’t worry about those things,” Jones said. “I don’t focus on things I can’t control. I don’t want to hear ‘oh, you should have made the team’ which happened to me a lot. It just makes it worse. I just try as hard as I can.”
One of the greatest things about playing for this Olympic team will be the chance to reunite with Bird and Cash, also members of UConn’s 1998 recruting class, and Taurasi, who joined them in time to win the 2002 NCAA national championship.
“It is an amazing thing to think about, even that we’re all still playing on a high level,” Jones said. “No one has been hampered by injuries or different things that can slow down careers. But fortunately having played for UConn, we are smart, we know how to play the game. We’re not always going to be the best player on the court, but how you mesh on the floor with others has helped us all, too.”