Leading by example



Photo courtesy Dave Mayo/App State Athletics.

Jess Lyons

With almost three seasons under her belt, junior point guard Joi Jones played a major role in the Mountaineers success over the years and continues to make significant improvements in her playing and leadership style.

Jones first picked up a basketball at the age of 5, and although her parents started her in other sports, basketball was the one that she said stuck the most. Originally from Duluth, Georgia, she signed with the Mountaineers and began playing in the 2013-14 season. Jones has managed to work towards her exercise science degree while becoming a leading player for the Mountaineers.

“I chose App because I love the atmosphere and the location of the school,” she said. “Everything about it seemed great and I really liked the program too.”

In her first season playing for the Mountaineers, Jones played in 28 games and made 13 starts. Her season high in points was 19 points against long-time conference foe Furman University and she also achieved a record high of five assists and five steals in other games.

“Joi represents a warrior. She’s really grown into a person who fights for every ball,” teammate Farrahn Wood said. “You can tell from past seasons that she’s really grown into a great point guard and a leader as well.”

Jones made impressive improvements moving into her second season for the Mountaineers and started in 28 out of 30 games. She set a new career-high in points her sophomore year with 20 points against Gardner-Webb. She also had a season total of 76 assists, 30 more than she had achieved in her debut season.

During her second season for the team, Jones also managed a career high of six assists in a single game and was the only member of the team to have more assists than turnovers that season. She was the third highest scorer on the team, and was the highest overall returning scorer for the 2015-16 season.

“She’s just truly evolved over the games,” head coach Angel Elderkin said. “We always say the point guard is an extension of the coaching and Joi doesn’t let us down.”

Elderkin also said that Jones’ leadership has evolved inclusively and creatively. Jones not only involves her teammates in plays whenever possible, but she also creates many of her own shots, as well as open shots for her teammates.

During her time at Appalachian State University, Jones has a career total of 185 assists to date, showing that inclusiveness that Elderkin emphasizes is such a key to the team’s improvement.

“You can tell she’s really goal-oriented,” Wood said. “Whenever she says she’s going to do better against a team or during a play she does her best to live up to that.”

Jones’ goal-oriented behavior has paid off over the seasons. From her freshman to sophomore year her season scoring total increased by 119 points. This season Jones has already scored 255 total points, breaking last season’s total by three, and still has six games and potentially the conference tournament to increase that number.

“The game against Troy really speaks for her development as a player,” Elderkin said. “Watching her make points but also giving so many assists really shows how much she’s grown into her role.”

Against Troy on Jan. 28, Jones posted 18 points and 8 assists, a team high in both categories, in a 96-81 victory.

The team is putting Jones’ skill and leadership to the test this semester with her performance in all 23 games played so far. She’s already hit a new career high for assists in a game with a total of eight while playing Troy University, and a new career high in points with 21 points against Furman.

“My goals have changed since I came in as a freshman. I’m more selfless in my playing because I want my team to succeed,” Jones said. “Playing for a coaching staff that truly cares and having that kind of family support has made me change how I play the game. I want my team to do well.”

Wood and Elderkin both mentioned that although Jones is a great leader, she needs to become more vocal in order to be a successful leader in her final season. Jones will be the most experienced point guard on the team next season and will need to vocally direct her new and younger teammates.

“My goal is to get Joi to be a 40-minute point guard, and she’s really turning into that this season,” Elderkin said. “It’s important that she not only finds her voice but that she continues to grow as a player and a leader to move herself and the team forward.”

With just six games left before the Sun Belt Conference Championships, Jones is determined to end the season strong with her team and make it to the tournament.

Jones and the rest of the App State women’s team square off in a Sun Belt showdown Thursday against South Alabama.

Story by: Jess Lyons, Senior Sports Reporter