Jones strives for respect

After spending two collegiate seasons away from home, Youngstown State University senior guard Tieara Jones was ready to return.

“Just the team, the camaraderie, the chemistry brought me back here,” Jones said. “Of course, with my family still here too was a big factor. It’s nice to come back to your hometown.”

Jones attended Foothill College and the University at Buffalo before coming to YSU. As a sophomore at Foothill, Jones helped the team advance to the Elite Eight of the California Community College Athletic Association’s state championships.

Jones attended Rayen High School, where she was a four-year letter winner. She averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds as a senior and was named to the Mahoning Valley All-Star Team.

She also played volleyball at Rayen and earned a letter during recruiting. However, Jones said the sport wasn’t anything special to her.

“I never really spent much time focusing on it,” she said. “Basketball was always my number one passion.”

After just one full season for the Penguins, Jones is considered a team leader.

“She talks a lot to us, kind of gets us going and into the rhythm,” said senior guard Kenya Middlebrooks.

Jones averaged 7.7 points and six rebounds per game last season while starting in 27 of the Penguins’ 29 games.

She said last season could have gone better.

“We weren’t where we wanted to be at the end of the season, so we grinded all summer long to get where we wanted to be, and I think we are in a pretty good spot right now,” Jones said. “Everyone is focused, and we are just ready to win games.”

Head women’s basketball coach Bob Boldon said Jones was a big part of the team last season, both offensively and defensively.

“We are really excited about where we are going to be this year,” Boldon said.

Boldon added that he expects much of the same from Jones this season.

“She is a kid that can provide a lot of energy and guard multiple positions,” Boldon said. “She makes a lot of plays defensively, probably our best defensive player. She is able to take some of the pressure off our point guards offensively. Her versatility is a big help for us.”

In the offseason, Jones worked on many things to improve her game, but she chose to pay more attention to defense.

“I wanted to focus on taking more charges,” Jones said. “I also want to stay out of foul trouble. I think in the first few games this season I have done a pretty good job in both of those categories.”

Boldon said Jones had a productive summer.

“I think she’s been in the best shape I have seen her in since she has been here,” Boldon said. “She has put on some muscle, and she is getting to a lot of basketballs and causing a lot of problems defensively.”

Jones said the team wants to make some noise this season.

“We just want to win games at this point,” Jones said, reflecting on the team’s 6-24 finish last year.

“We are trying to make a run in the tournament. We obviously are trying to grind and get that number one spot in the conference. That’s our biggest goal: trying to make people respect us.”