There is a big gap between a basketball player earning Player of the Year honors in his or her league, and corralling that same title at the state level. But the former was a forbearer to the latter this winter for JJ Hones, who this week was voted by the state's coaches as the Oregon Class 4A Player of the Year. The senior point guard for Beaverton (Ore.) Southridge High School led one of the most talented and accomplished teams in state history to a perfect 18-0 finish in the Metro League and 27-2 total record that culminated in their second straight OSAA Class 4A state championship.
The Southridge Skyhawks' only two losses this year came out of state, and they finished ranked by USA Today #7 in the nation. The team is so talented that they are sending three seniors on scholarship to play in the Pac-10. Two of them are ranked by Scout.com among the Top 50 players in the nation.
"I definitely didn't know for sure," says Hones of her chances of winning the top honor in the state. "But I won Player of the Year for the league, and I thought it was very possible after that."
The 5'10" point guard was crowned as the top player in Oregon not only by the coaches, but also tabbed as the Gatorade Player of the Year. Hones joins a proud and crowded collection of Cardinal players from the Beaver State to win the latter award. Jillian Harmon (2004-05), Lindsey Yamasaki (1997-98), Chandra Benton (1993-94), Tara Harrington (1991-92, 1992-93) and Trisha Stevens (1986-87) join Hones to combine for a Stanford stranglehold on seven of the last 20 years for the Gatorade Player of the Year in Oregon.
Hones was outstanding this season, averaging 12.6 points, 4.0 assists and 3.1 steals per game. Her most acclaimed scoring performance came in the semifinals of the state tournament, when she put down 31 points against Ashland's team total of 38. But it was her role as the rudder, as the director, of the Skyhawks that earned Hones her end-of-season top individual honors.
"I think it was my leadership ability," she opines. "We have such a good team with such great players. I had to decide who should get the ball and when. We had the talent where we could beat some people just taking them one-on-one. Anybody could go one-on-one, but if we had done that, we would not have won so many games."
"The whole point of the point guard is to set up the offense and make sure the team does well," Hones adds. "I think I did that job well, considering how we ended up the season. I would trade any individual awards for our team success."
One of the surprise statistics for Hones in her senior season was her better than 53% shooting from the field. That is an enviable number for a post player, but almost unheard of for a point guard.
"I'm not going to lie, we have such great players on the team," Hones explains. "Our players made a lot of steals, which made it easy to get a lot of fast breaks, so I got a lot of lay-ins. But overall, I felt really good about my shot."
The Stanford-bound point guard has one more high school game to play before she heads to The Farm next fall. She will suit up with two of her Southridge teammates and seven other top Oregon girls this evening for the Northwest Shootout, the annual all-star game that pits the best seniors from Oregon against their top counterparts from Washington. The game will take place at the Chiles Center in Portland, the same arena where Hones won the state championship last month.
"I'm just looking to have fun," Hones says of the all-star game experience. "This is one of the last games I'll play with a bunch of people I know, so I want to have fun."
Though she will play some additional basketball this spring on the AAU circuit with her club team, Team Concept, at a tournament in Arizona in two weeks, this final chapter tonight in JJ Hones' high school career helps turn the page toward her college future. Hones is part of a Stanford signing class ranked #3 in the nation by Scout.com. Two of her teammates participated in the most fabled of all-star games last Wednesday, when 6'4" center Jayne Appel and 6'2" wing Michelle Harrison led an upset win for the West over the East in the 2006 McDonald's Girls All-American Game. That game will not be shown on television until this coming week, tape delayed, so Hones had to rely on cell phone communications with her future teammates for reports during the week.
"I called Michelle because I was mad that she didn't get to take part in the Slam Dunk contest," Hones shares. "I told her that she will just have to bust it out against Tennessee and Candace Parker."
Hones talked with her friends and future teammates again after the game, though she received differing reports.
"I talked with Jayne and asked her how she played and how their team did. She said, 'Oh, I played okay. Yeah, we won.' Then I talked to Michelle, and she was like, 'Oh my God, did you see how Jayne played? She won the MVP!' Jayne didn't say anything about it," Hones recounts.
That evening was marred, however, by action in San Antonio (Tex.). Stanford took #1-seeded LSU to the wire and recorded a near-upset in the Elite Eight. A controversial call and waved-off basket in the final seconds was all that separated Stanford's one-point loss and a two-point victory, sending them to today's Final Four in Boston (Mass.).
"I thought it was great that they did as well as they did this year. Knowing the players a little bit, and how much heart they have and how hard they play every game, I expected them to go far," Hones offers. "I thought in the LSU game, they got screwed! Through the whole game, I thought the team played well. No team plays perfect. LSU is a great team with such great players. Even though Stanford did have lapses, they almost won."
"I think that refs shouldn't call that in that situation," the future Stanford guard says of the offensive foul whistled against All-American Candice Wiggins. "It was such a close game, and it's tough to decide it like that. Watching replays, I didn't see that [LSU's Seimone Augustus] had position. Obviously, I am biased."
The opinions and judgments JJ Hones made this 2005-06 season were certainly trustworthy for the Southridge Seahawks. Stanford excitedly awaits her playmaking ability and leadership for what will be a consensus Top 5 team in 2006-07. The Oregon product may help provide a push that sends the Cardinal to the 2007 Final Four in Cleveland (Ohio), as she brings her winning ways and championship legacy to The Farm.
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