SAN JOSE (KPIX) – Haley Jones wasn’t ready for her high school basketball career to end last week when Archbishop Mitty lost in the semifinals of the NorCal playoffs to Salesian. In four years with the Monarchs, Jones became a record-breaker and a trailblazer, but she’ll have to live without becoming a state champion.
Late last November Jones sat in front of a gymnasium full of classmates and announced her commitment to play at the college level on live TV.
“I’ve chosen to attend Stanford University,” she proclaimed. The announcement was beamed live across the nation by ESPN making Jones the first female recruit ever to get that sort of coverage by the network.
A few weeks after her appearance on ESPN, Jones got a spread in Sports Illustrated and her parents hit multiple newsstands in the South Bay to load up on copies of the magazine.
“After the game they stopped and bought as many as they could,” she said. “I think we only have a few copies left at the house because they gave them all away.”
The ink and airtime are well deserved. Jones is regarded as the number one recruit in the nation, which is a first for any female basketball player in the Bay Area. Other players with the same distinction include Maya Moore, Brittany Griner and Katie Lou Samuelson. All three players went on to have illustrious careers in college, and Stanford is hoping for nothing short of that out of Jones.
“Having that label carries a reputation,” Jones said of the pressure that comes along with being number one. “I have to live up to that every night.”
And live up to the label she does. Jones averaged over 26-points-per-game for the Monarchs and recently broke the school scoring record that was held by Olympian Kerri Walsh-Jennings for 23 years.
Having a player of Jones’ caliber is quite a luxury for head coach Sue Phillips who has been at Mitty for nearly three decades.
“Along with my tenure here at Archbishop Mitty, I was the national team coach for USA basketball, and I would say Haley is the most versatile player I’ve ever coached,” Phillips paused. “And arguably the best player.”
For that reason, Jones has a box at her Santa Cruz home chock full of recruiting letters from every elite college basketball program in the nation. She whittled her options down to UConn, Notre Dame, Oregon, South Carolina, but eventually settled on Stanford to stay close to home.
“Getting that call from Haley was just awesome,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer who has received a bunch of “awesome” phone calls recently.
Blue chip players Ashten Prechtel, Francesca Belibi, and Hannah Jump (Pinewood HS) will join Haley Jones at The Farm next season. All four players are ranked in the top 50 and they give Stanford the second best recruiting class in the nation. All the chatter is about next year instead of this year, even though the current Cardinal team has been highly ranked all season.
“I put that to our team,” VanDerveer pointed to a loss early in the season. “They’re not talking about you, and I would take that personally. Get in the gym and practice harder.”
The Cardinal won six in a row to end the season, and if they don’t win their first national championship since 1992 this year, there should be plenty of opportunities with Haley Jones in the fold.
“The labels in high school… that’s high school,” VanDerveer said of Jones’ many accolades. “Be the best college player.”
It’s that sort of tough love and intensity VanDerveer hopes can help Jones reach her potential. VanDerveer’s last “number one recruit” was Chiney Ogwumike. The Texas native went on to set Stanford’s scoring record at the same time Jones was getting the bug for basketball in grade school.
“She texted me when I committed,” Jones beamed. “She said, ‘Welcome to the sisterhood,’ and that was amazing.”
Ultimately Jones chose Stanford for the same reason many of her predecessors chose the prestigious school.
“It’s not a four year decision,” she said. “It’s a decision that sets you up for life.”
The seeds of that decision were planted when Jones was in the sixth grade and attended one of Stanford’s youth basketball’s camps. Jones and VanDerveer had a moment to snap a quick photo unknowing their paths would cross again.
“I had no idea,” Jones said. “I said, ‘oh she’s a pretty good coach, let’s take a picture mom.’”
For years VanDerveer has taken countless pictures with the young campers.
“I don’t know if they’ve all kept them. Maybe some of them put them on their dartboard,” VanDerveer joked. “If I knew they were all going to be like Haley, maybe I’d comb my hair more.”
Pictures are worth a thousand words and VanDerveer is hoping the one with Haley Jones is worth a few wins too.