Jones was a member of the Cherokee High School girls basketball team from 1965-69. She was a two-time all-state selection, three-time all-region player and earned a varsity letter in each of her four seasons. Jones contributed to state championship teams in her final three seasons and was the team’s most valuable player as a senior.
Then, she walked away from basketball.
Jones was offered a partial scholarship to play at Nashville Business College — before the days of women’s basketball in the NCAA — but she declined.
“I don’t know why I decided not to take it,” said Jones, who said she now regrets the decision. “That was the main thing I did, was play basketball.”
Jones, who once scored 48 points in a game, will be inducted into the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame tonight as a member of its class of 2013.
“I never really thought I would make it to the hall of fame, because not everybody can,” she said. “But it’s certainly something to be proud of.”
When Jones graduated from high school and left basketball behind, she took a job at Western Electric, which later became AT&T and finally Lucent Technologies. She retired from the company in 2001 and took a position with Verizon.
Jones now lives in Duluth with her husband, Don, although the pair has considered moving back to Cherokee County. She has two children, a step-daughter and six grandchildren, one of which she is now raising.
However, none of them have followed in Jones’ basketball shoes.
“I would give anything if they would,” she said. “My husband and I are both very athletic. We have played softball together and I play tennis.”
Jones hasn’t made it back to Cherokee for a basketball game since she graduated, but she would like to change that. Some of her cousins have children or grandchildren in the area, and she would like to see them continue the family tradition of success.
As a sixth-grader, Jones wanted to go out for the cheerleading squad, but after a conversation with her father, she pursued basketball instead.
“I wanted to be a cheerleader, and my dad said, ‘You are too tall to be a cheerleader. You should play basketball,’” she said. “So he was the one that directed me toward basketball.”
The daughter of two textile mill workers, Jones played basketball whenever she had free time.
“Basketball was kind of my life,” she said. “I ate, slept and breathed basketball, even when it was off-season. I lived in the village and there was a basketball goal near my house and I would go there and shoot, even during the offseason.”
At the time, Cherokee was the only high school in the county. Jones was proud to be apart of the team.
“Girls basketball in Cherokee County was really big for us because the girls basketball team was noted for winning the region at least,” she said. “Everybody expected us to win.”
While one of the reasons Jones said she enjoyed basketball was the camaraderie, she said she hasn’t kept in touch with many of the other players. It’s for that reason that she’s happy that the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame will also be recognizing the Lady Warriors’ state championship teams from 1967, ’68 and ’69.
“I’m hoping that, since they are doing the whole team thing, I will get to see some of them because I would love to see them all again,” Jones said.