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Jones, Merlakia 1973–

Merlakia Jones 1973

Professional basketball player

At a Glance

Sources

Merlakia Jones has come a long way from the makeshift basketball courts of her youth. Developing her talent playing for her college basketball team, and spending a year in the pros overseas, patience paid off when a newly formed womens professional basketball team offered her a place on the roster. With an impressive work ethic and competitive sensibility, Jones vaulted her way to the upper ranks of professional basketball.

Born July 21, 1973, in Montgomery, Alabama, Jones developed a love for basketball as a child. When there were no courts in her neighborhood, Jones and her cousins improvised by cutting the bottoms out of crates and nailing the crates to her garage door. Playing against older and bigger kids, Jones thrived on the competition. As she told www.northernohiolive.com, I was always determined to keep up with my older cousins.

Jones joined the University of Florida in 1992. In her four years as a Gator, the 5-foot-9-inch guard went on a scoring rampage. By the time she graduated in 1996, Jones was the schools all-time leading scorer, amassing 2,001 points. She was also Floridas sixth-leading rebounder, grabbing 830 career rebounds. Playing in the Southeastern Conference, Jones was named to the All-SEC first team and as a unanimous pick. Jones led Florida to three National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament appearances and scored a career-high 44 points against Texas in 1995, the second-highest performance in Floridas history. In her final year of college, she was named a Kodak All-American and Honorable Mention All-American by The Associated Press after averaging nearly 19 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Following graduation, Jones played for Sant-aram, Portugal before being selected by the Clevelend Rockers in the second round of the inaugural draft for the Womens National Basketball Association.

In the crucial position of guard, Jones was responsible for bringing the ball upcourt, assessing the defensive makeup, getting the ball to the right player, or taking the shot herself. She excelled in this position, and in her first two seasons, she averaged 8.2 and 9.5 points per game, respectively. Jones averaged 10.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. She played in all 32 games on the schedule and was named to the leagues inaugural All-Star Game, an exhibition-type contest showcasing the leagues best players.

During the 2000 season, Jones became a recognizable force within the league. She finished that season having

At a Glance

Born on July 21, 1973, in Montgomery, AL. Education: Old Dominion University, graduated 1996.

Career: Played for Santaram, Portugal in first professional season, 1996-97; drafted in second round of first WNBA draft by the Cleveland Rockers, 1997.

Awards: Voted Eastern Conference reserve in WNBA All-Star Game, 2000; named to East Team for inaugural WNBA All-Star Game; named Kodak All-American and Honorable Mention All-American by The Associated Press; three-time All-SEC First Team selection.

Address: c/o Cleveland Rockers, One Center Court, Cleveland, Ohio, 44115.

played in every game, averaging 11 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Again, she was named to the All-Star Team. While she would earn the attention and respect of her peers in 2000, that season served as a springboard for what would be a breakout season in 2001. She started 30 of Clevelands 32 games, averaging a career-high 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. She was named to her third-straight All-Star game. This time she played, and scored 12 points in 18 minutes. While Jones has been selected to play in all three WNBA All-Star Games, this season marks the first she has been treated like a celebrity. The 28-year-old said she barely had any time for herself during her two days in Orlando for this years showcase, Brian Dulik wrote in an article appearing at www.medinagazette.com.

A success on the court, Jones has also made certain to share the secrets of her success with others, as well as engaging in community work in her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. She has often spoken to youth groups about the importance of staying focused. In July of 2000, she helped address a group of summer girls basketball camps at the College of Wooster in Ohio. It has become common for Jones to instill positive messages in youth in an effort to keep them on a positive path. I feel I was blessed with this talent and it makes me feel good when I can go out and speak to young people about my accomplishments and what Ive had to go through to get to where I am, Jones stated in an article appearing at www.the-daily-record.com. Its just a way that I can give back while also letting them know that they can make it also if they put in the hard work. Jones continued. Its a struggle but it can be done. As with anything you do, the more you put in, the more youll see in the results. If you work at it then youll reap the benefits. Plus its good for them to see females out there doing positive things.

As a member of a professional womens sports organization, furthering its awareness has been a big priority for Jones. Since leaving college in 1996, Jones has remarked at the changing landscape of womens athletics. You see more young ladies who want to be involved in not only basketball but also sports like soccer, tennis and softball, she said in the same www.the-daily-record.com article. Whats changed though is that when you turn on a college game now, you not only see women involved but you see men there as well. Years ago they probably wouldnt have even thought about going to a womens game. Jones concluded, I feel like that, with the groundwork were laying down for the sport, that were ambassadors of the sport, so that in 10, 15, or 20 years down the road maybe the WNBA can have an anniversary.

Sources

www.wnba.com

www.gatorsports.com

www.northernohiolive.com

www.detnews.com

www.the-daily-record.com

www.medina-gazette.com

John Horn

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