By Krista Pirtle
Baylor women’s basketball standout Melissa Jones has hung up her basketball shoes but stepped back on the Ferrell Center court in volleyball shoes.
After getting a bachelor’s degree for speech communication, Jones could have pursued a career in professional basketball, but after much consideration and prayer, she decided to return to Baylor and pursue a graduate degree.
Ironically, Oklahoma’s Carlee Roethlisberger is doing the same.
Jones said that there was no conspiracy between the two of them.
“It is kind of bizarre [that we are both doing this],” Thornton, Colo., native Jones said. “She is a tremendous athlete, and I had no doubt in my mind that she would be able to come in and make a difference.”
According to the NCAA rules, “Division I student athletes have five calendar years from the first enrollment at a two- or four-year school to compete four years of competition.”
“Well, truthfully, I’m not exactly sure what I want to do with the rest of my life yet,” Jones said. “A lot of things didn’t go according to plan, so it kind of led me on to stay in school another year and play volleyball, which I am ever so excited about.”
Many of Jones’s friends were on the volleyball team, and she worked out with them occasionally.
Jones approached volleyball head coach Jim Barnes about an opportunity to play once she made the decision to stay at Baylor for graduate school.
“It’s worked out well for us,” Barnes said. “She’s come to open gyms and I found out she has played quite a bit with the team. We’ve had an open door for her.”
Jones is no stranger to the game of volleyball. In high school, Jones was an All-State middle blocker.
With the combination of the differences between high school and Division I volleyball and being so focused on basketball, however, her volleyball skills are a little rusty.
“Volleyball is definitely not the strongest point of who I am at all,” Jones said. “It’s not just about athleticism. There are little details that you have to pay attention to. There are several things I need to work on before I step on court here. ”
Barnes, however, is seeing improvement.
“She’s just a natural athlete and competitor. She’s picked things up very quickly. She’s smart and provided depth at the key positions, the middle and right. She’s going to fight her way in there, and we’ll see what happens.”
Jones knows that being a basketball star for Baylor won’t get her a starting spot on the court.
All she wants to do, Jones said, is help her team win, which is the mindset that coined her as the glue that held the basketball team together last season.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to help this team; whatever that may be,” Jones said. “Whether it’s encouraging from the sideline or playing, I’m just here for the girls and the coaching staff, whatever needs to be done to help them win.”
Barnes, through Jones’ imperfections and improvements, already sees her stepping up as a leader.
“It [Jones’ leadership] just naturally takes over when she starts competing,” Barnes said. “She’s surrounded by girls who are just like her with blue-collar attitudes. They are feeding off each other.”
Whether or not to head into the WNBA was a big decision for Jones, just like choosing Baylor over Colorado State University.
Last April, as Jones’ basketball jersey was retired, the possibility of her going to professional basketball seemed like it was going to happen.
However, for the 2011 volleyball season, a familiar blonde ponytail will be flipping back and forth as Jones returns to the hardwood of the Ferrell Center, hoping the lead yet another Baylor team.