Cavalier Corner

February 2019

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18 CAVALIER CORNER BY GREG WATERS M ONÉ JONES IS NO STRANGER to drama. The UVA drama ma- jor was cast as a drama queen very early in life. "I was named the drama queen of my family when I was really, really, really young," the fourth-year forward said. "It's just been a thing where I love to be in char- acter. I love characters. I love the story be- hind plays and things like that. "[My mom] thought drama would be a really good major for me to do," she added. Jones doesn't just save the talent for the stage, though, she also brings it into the locker room. "I can do some impersonations of my teammates," she said. "I can do [third-year point guard] Dominique [Toussaint]. I can do [third-year forward] Shakyna Payne be- cause we're around each other too much. I can't do Coach T [Tina Thompson] yet, but trust and believe, I'm going to get it." But as so often happens for most of us, reality often drops unexpected drama into our lives. It did for Jones, who lost a signifi- cant part of her second-year and third-year seasons due to injuries. As she fought back from those ailments, the real drama began in her life. A McDonald's High School All-America nominee, Jones battled through her rookie year with a knee injury that required surgery in the spring to repair. She appeared in 33 games with one start that season and scored 98 points (2.9 per game). Her rehabilita- tion for the knee extended into her second campaign, sidelining her for the first eight games and keeping her from ever finding a role in the rotation. "The biggest struggle for me is being out," she lamented. "Being away from the team. Being away from playing the game of basketball. I really struggled with that in the beginning because I've never really been without basketball for that extensive amount of time; especially with my knee injury coming back from the surgery. "I wasn't playing for close to eight months and I've never done that, ever." Jones played in 25 games in 2017-18, contributing 40 points and 21 rebounds. Last season, she missed 10 games with a foot in- jury and saw action in just 15 outings while averaging a mere 8.0 minutes per contest. As she fought back from injuries and coped with being away from the game she loves, Jones learned a valuable lesson that often takes the rest of us years to figure out. When our identity is our career, the neighborhood we live in or the sport we play, we can lose sight that it's the intangible features about our char- acter or personality that make us who we are. "For me, it was just knowing who I am without the basketball; like a part of me," Jones explained. "I've played basketball for going on 15 years and it was a span of six to eight months where I was without it. What was I going to do, how was I going to cope? "The thing I figured out, and it was really eye-opening for me, I'm the same witty per- son, the person with the same personality, always smiling on and off the court. I just decided when I had those bad days to keep pushing through, to keep smiling, and that really built my character and told me a great deal about myself. "In a way, I appreciate those injuries." But Jones certainly appreciates being back on the court, injury free, and while the season has been rough for the Cava- liers — UVA was 8-11 overall and 2-4 in the ACC as of Jan. 26 — she's made the transition back and is fully contributing as a fourth-year. "When you're off the court for long stretches, you have to learn things over again," Jones said. "You have to practice things like your shooting mechanics repeat- edly, so it becomes second nature like it was before the injury. There were a lot of steps to get back to where I wanted to be. "It wasn't necessarily trying to make changes, it was trying to refine the things I already knew that I could do and getting acclimated with the ball in my hands again. I feel like that was the biggest thing for me." In a year where injuries have impacted her teammates, Jones stepped in to fill the void from those losses. She started each of Virginia's first 19 games and was averaging 32.3 minutes per contest. She was third on the team with 91 rebounds (4.8 per outing) and second with 16 blocked shots, and was averaging 7.3 points per game. Now that she's back on the court, what makes being at Virginia truly special for Jones is how two of her biggest passions complement one another. Everyone knows the importance of being in sync and teamwork in athletics, but Jones discovered last fall when serving as a stage production manager for a play that team- work is an aspect present in the arts as well. "I had to do a lab last semester in the fall where I was a stage production manager for a play at the Ruth Caplin Theatre," she said. "I didn't know how the production side of a play actually ran, so this was my first time being behind the scenes and actually being involved with a UVA production." The play, Sarah Delappe's Pulitzer Prize- nominated "The Wolves" — ironically about sports — is a portrait of the pursuit of happiness for nine adolescent female soccer players who just want to score some goals. "It ran like a team, like my basketball team," Jones said, beaming. "How every- one was communicating, how everyone was on the same page, how on some days we weren't on the same page. It really felt like a team and a team effort to put on the show. "You're working hard, but you don't know the outcome until you actually produce it. We had all these rehearsals and the girls that were a part of the play were looking good, but it also depends on opening night. How the audience reacts to this play and whether they like it or not, but all the hard work they put in was worth it because everybody enjoyed it. "I relate that to basketball because all the hard work we put in, in the offseason, it shows on the court when we get the wins. Like the Virginia Tech game, we were down 19 points and came back and won. "All our hard work, prepared us for those moments." One thing is certain, whether it's the hard- wood of a basketball court or the hardwood of a stage, Jones is up to the challenge in either venue. FINISHING STRONG After Being Hampered By Injuries Her First Three Seasons At UVA, Moné Jones Is Having A Career Year Jones started each of the Cavaliers' first 19 contests this season, and was averaging career highs in minutes played (32.3 per game), scor- ing (7.3) and rebounding (4.8). PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA

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