When the legends of the Connecticut Huskies women's hoops program are talked about, the first names that come up are always the same: Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Swin Cash, Rebecca Lobo....well, I for one, have been saying that Asjha Jones needs to be included in that list.
On a team including Taurasi, Bird, and Cash, it was Jones that was the 2002 Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player. A 14 ppg scorer her senior year, Asjha was drafted #4 overall by the Washington Mystics. She never seemed to get it going in D.C., however, and in a three-team deal that netted the Mystics Tamicha Jackson (and the Phoenix Mercury the draft pick that became Chandi Jones), the Connecticut Sun brought Asjha back to the Nutmeg state, and thrilled this season ticket holder.
After a mostly forgettable 2004 season, it's been a rise to All-Star level. For the next several seasons, as the Sun were annual playoff contenders, Jones saw her stats rise. She went from averaging 6.9 ppg and 3.5 rpg in 2004 to 17 ppg and 6.1 rpg in 2008. From 20 minutes per game off the bench in 2004, by 2008 Asjha Jones was one of the elite power forwards in the league, averaging around 30 minutes per game and starting every game.
A couple of years of injuries have slowed down that train somewhat, but she’s back in 2011. She's finding health, and she's providing leadership to a young team. The Connecticut Sun and their fans are thrilled to have that scowl back on the court, as she battles in the paint and works in tandem with the Sun’s All Star center, Tina Charles. When Charles was drafted, the talk was what a great combination this would be, in the vein of Lisa Leslie and Delisha Milton-Jones in Los Angeles over the years. Those injuries prevented us from seeing the duo at peak efficiency, but we are seeing it now, and it has been fun to watch.
As they prepare to announce the All-Star reserves for this year’s game, Jones is certainly in the mix. She’s shooting at a career high 49.7%, and has reduced her turnovers per game. The addition of a contributing group of bench players in Connecticut this year has helped keep Jones’ minutes down a bit, and she’s feeling strong and confident. Which is a really good thing, because the size, strength and mobility of post players in the WNBA at this time may be the best the league has seen in its 15 years.
As part of the WNBA’s 15th year celebration, as I’m sure you all know, the league held a fan voting to choose the Top 15 WNBA Players ever, out of a list of 30 nominees. What you may not know, is that Asjha has played in college and the WNBA with 7 of the 30 nominees, and that doesn’t count USA Basketball: Taurasi, Bird, Cash, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Katie Douglas, Nykesha Sales, and Chamique Holdsclaw. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that it is because they played with Asjha they are on this list! Which one does she consider the best?
One thing that Asjha Jones is striving to be is a winner off the court as well as on the court. A business major at UConn, she has started her own business, Takera Shoes (also her twitter name, @TakeraShoes). Based on her middle name Takera, the shoe company combines her personal interest and a need she has found that is out there, finding shoes for women with larger sized feet. This past winter she stayed in the States instead of going overseas to play, choosing to rest her body and develop the business at the same time. Asjha is involved in all facets, from design to administration of the business and hopes to see it continue to grow.
So, she has won USA World Championship gold, she has a national championship on the college level. There are still mountains to climb for Asjha Jones though. I asked her what would mean the most to her: the gold medal, the college championship, a WNBA title or her own fashion show in New York for the shoe line. There was no hesitation in her voice as she quickly emphasized, "The WNBA Championship. Definitely. That would be awesome."
Here’s one Sun fan hoping she can pull it off. Then maybe she’ll finally get her due and be listed with Taurasi, Bird, Cash, Lobo…..