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Marion Jones hopes the track travels through Tulsa in 2011

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Marion Jones and her "it factor" - basketball.<em> Photo by <a href="http://www.photoshelter.com/c/112575" target="new">Craig Bennett/112575 Media</a>. </em>
Marion Jones and her "it factor" - basketball. Photo by Craig Bennett/112575 Media.

Marion Jones doesn't like the spotlight as much as you might think. She shies away from herself on television, and is occasionally nervous when giving interviews.

So when the author Jones talked with me about her new book being released tomorrow, "On the Right Track", it was no wonder that the book was timed for an offseason debut.

"I didn't want to necessarily have anything come out during the season because I didn't want it to be a distraction," Jones said. "I'm a distraction anyway."

Her offseason from the Tulsa Shock not only includes a book release and subsequent media tour, but also the release of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary called "Press Pause". A far cry from many of her Shock teammates and fellow competitors in the WNBA who are hooping it up overseas for the winter months.

This might lead to unfounded speculation that Jones is one and done in the league - but that is not the case, or at least not her plan.

She is, however, realistic about her summertime gig.

"I am a realist and I know that nothing is guaranteed, especially at this moment," Jones said of her playing future. "I am confident that I'll be invited to play again next year with Tulsa, but you never know."

 

Make no mistake that her lack of a guaranteed spot in Tulsa and hectic schedule might be slowing her down, though.

"I'm training, I'm preparing to play, but I have not been given any guarantees from anybody yet," Jones said. "I'm hoping for the best, and I'm training with the hopes that I'll be in Tulsa playing next season."

Along with being realistic about her job status, she's also realizing the rigors of being 35.

"I'm having to be a lot more conscious of my body and feeling more aches, this, that, and the other and just being a lot more careful," Jones said.

Among the topics described in the book, Jones describes discovering your "it factor" and making your strengths, talents and desires work together. And for Jones, that "it factor" is basketball.

"I still think basketball for me is the it factor," Jones remarked before expressing her gratitude for the opportunities the WNBA has provided her in her one season. "It's just really opened up a lot of doors that a couple of years ago I didn't think ever would have been opened, and it's just a real testimony of faith. If you keep the faith, and just keep trudging forward, thinking and looking at the big picture that anything can happen."

So as she keeps the faith that she'll continue on in the WNBA, Jones will keep working hard to improve her skill set.

She relays an analogy for the Tulsa Shock team in the book, talking about being available to fill any need, rather than defining your abilities by just a position on the court. Whether the coach needs a saw, hammer or pliers, he can reach into the toolbox and call Jones' number 20 to get her best performance.

"You have to be ready to give anything," Jones said. "In my journey back that's what I had to focus on.

"I had a lot of weaknesses in my game that I had to improve on, that I still have to improve on, but what would make me an asset to a team, to a coach. What came about it that I have to be able to give the coach anything that they need."

So after the media circuit disperses, Jones will be spending this offseason in the U.S. and filling her personal toolbox with any and every asset that head coach Nolan Richardson and his staff might be looking for to lead the team to victories on the court.

"I never would have thought like that years ago, but my thinking is different now," Jones said of her role on the team. "Whatever you need, Coach. First of all, please put me in. After that, put me in because I can help."