JJ Hones Gets the Point

Junior point guard JJ Hones took a while to get into the groove last season, but once she did the groove was a deep and sure one. Hones finished up with a sterling 2.6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and a blossoming offensive game as one of the Card's key outside threats. Hones is even more ready to get the ball where it needs to go, whether to a teammate or into the basket, this season.

Many months before junior point guard JJ Hones hit the Stanford campus for her freshman year she wanted to know the plays she might one day be running. She was spied after a game at Oregon State briefly diagramming the plays she had just observed with one of the Stanford coaches. Hones seems to relish her job as floor general; with Hones in the game last season, Stanford's offense purred along smoothly. Hones saved some of her best for big NCAA games. She scored 23 points and dished out 4 assists against Maryland in the Regional Final and contributed 11 points and 6 assists in the win over Connecticut in the Final Four. This season Hones is raring to go and ready to take on an even bigger leadership role as the Cardinal set their sights on another Final Four.

Last year at this time JJ Hones was still working her way back from spring ACL surgery. How is it getting a healthy start this time around? [Note: This interview was conducted a few days prior to the November 7th exhibition game, which Hones sat out due to a sore foot. At this writing her status for the first game of the season against Minnesota is uncertain. We knew we should never have asked this question and are very sorry for the jinx.]

"It feels fantastic because at the beginning of last year it was really frustrating. During the summer I was spending most of the time trying to rehab my knee and trying to get back in shape as much as possible, but I wasn't cleared to run until mid-August. We come back, our first unofficial practice is in the middle of September and I'm not in shape. It was very difficult, tiring, frustrating beginning that way. But then this past year, this summer and coming back now, was so much better because I was able to be in shape and rather than work on getting in shape I was able to work on skills that I know will actually help the team. It's very exciting for me because I know that I'm able to contribute more than just myself – hopefully try to be a leader and try to give some sort of energy that Candice (Wiggins) brought, maybe just an ounce of that energy."

What were her summer workouts like at home in Oregon?

"I was home all summer besides a couple of vacation getaways. I did workouts, skill work, with my old AAU coach pretty much every single morning. And then there was a summer league that had games on Wednesday and Thursday. I played in those. Then there was a pick-up going on at colleges like Portland State or University of Portland and I know the girls on the teams of both of those. So it was cool to be able to play with them and hang out with them but then to play and work on things against people that aren't my teammates, people that I maybe don't know what I can do and can see if it actually works against them."

How does Hones see her role as point guard for the Cardinal?

"I'm obviously biased because I'm a point guard but I think, and not only I think but all the coaches can tell you, on any team a point guard is an extension of the coach on the court. If things are going wrong, a lot of times I attribute it to the point guard maybe not running the offense correctly. I feel that can be very stressful but it's also something that I feel I want to be able to do for the team and I feel is very rewarding. It's not necessarily a job where you're going to put up 40 points a game, but if we win, that's all that matters to me."

What is going through Hones' mind as she gets the team into the offense?

"The coaches are stressing a lot that I make sure that I'm getting the ball to the right people in the right spots, like don't give the ball to Jayne (Appel) when it's three-on-one in transition and she has to try to dribble through her legs and stuff like that. That's not going to benefit anyone. It's also really making people look good, reading the defense so if you have a 5' guard on Jill (Harmon), maybe run something for Jill. All those things are going through my head. I'm thinking about what Tara (VanDerveer) is calling or what I should be calling."

That hypothetical pass to Appel might benefit fans that would enjoy seeing Appel do some fancy dribbling on the break. Hones might want to rethink that one. What did Hones and her teammates learn from the success of last season?

"What I think a lot of people from last year's team are bringing to this year's team is our sticking with it attitude, like when things are not going our way, things are down or we're losing, to really stick with it and know that we can win games. Or if we are winning, know that we can lose games too. I think that and just how hard we did work to get to the Final Four is something that I feel as an upperclassman now I need to really be telling the freshmen, reminding them that we do need to work hard every day in every little drill because Tara does have a method to her madness. Whatever she tells us that we're doing is what we need to be doing. If it's a drill, something minor, it's still important because it helps us better execute plays."

Which coaches does she work with the most?

"Kate (Paye) works with the guards a lot. She was a point guard and I think she does have Top-10 most assists at Stanford or something like that (Paye is at #10 in Stanford career assists). She's a very smart coach. She was a smart player. It definitely benefits the guards that we have Kate there to maybe explain what Tara is thinking. Kate has been a really good asset to the team."

Let us assume for the moment that Hones is somehow temporarily stuck on a deserted island. She will be rescued but needs company (and a few coconuts). She can take one teammate and one coach. Who will it be?

"I think I may take Jayne. Probably Jayne. Jayne is my roommate, one of my best friends. She's my "big" in our sorority. We get along really well. I think we understand each other well enough that we're able to live together, play on the same team, and spend all of our time together. We're in the same sorority. And that's all of our time. I'm not sick of her and I hope she's not sick of me."

How about a coach?

"I'm trying to think who decides playing time. All the coaches bring something so different. Tara's just quirky. Amy (Tucker) is kind of sarcastic. Kate is a little mixture of both and Bobbie (Kelsey) is absolutely hilarious. I think I'd probably go with Bobbie."

It sounds like any of them would make decent deserted island company.

"I could pick anyone on our team. We spend at least three hours a day with each other every day and I'm not sick of anyone on the team. I could really spend an extended period of time with anyone. Really any player and any coach on this team I could pick."

Does the team spend a lot of time together outside of basketball?

"We do. We do. I know Ashley (Cimino) and Hannah (Donaghe) live together with our manager, Kerry. Mel (Murphy) and Kayla (Pedersen) don't live with people on the team but they're always together.

Let's say after practice on Friday when we don't have a team dinner, it's not like, ok Jayne and I are going to go to Chipotle, we'll see you guys later. We know freshmen don't have cars. We know some sophomores don't have cars. We know even some juniors and seniors don't have cars. Everyone really tries to include each other. If Jayne and I are going to dinner we'll say we're going here, does anybody want to come? We all enjoy each other's company. If we're in the locker room talking about what we're going to do that weekend, it's not like, well, we'll see you all on Monday. It's like what are you guys doing? Maybe we should get together? We'll meet up or something."

At this point, Don Anderson, whose excellent photos are linked at the end of this interview, comments that Hones has "a really nice way" of helping the freshmen in practice when they get a little stressed.

"The seniors my freshman year really helped me. I think I messed up every single day of practice, made us run every single day. So I've been in the position where maybe I messed up a drill or I turned the ball over and we all have to run. You do get down on yourself. Not only are you disappointing yourself but you're letting the team down and the coaching staff is just a whole different story. So there are a lot of different frustrations and pressures that I think freshmen feel and really everyone on the team feels. I know no one on the team is trying to mess up. Maybe you miss an open shot and Tara says, ‘Whoa, why'd you miss that? You were open.' You're like well I was trying to miss it actually. For instance if Nneka (Ogwumike) messes up and Tara yells at her, I don't need to yell at her too. I don't need to say, ‘Nneka, what are you doing?' That's not productive at all. That's not constructive criticism. That's nothing. They're just trying to do whatever they can to help the team. I think everyone realizes that. So I, as a point guard and as the player that I am, help them maybe by explaining what the coaches are saying. Trying to be like hey, this is what I would do in that situation."

What does Hones know now that she wishes she had known as a freshman?

"No cross-court skip passes!" [Laughs] "That the coaching staff will never really ask you to do something you can't do. As much as you hate getting yelled at, you know if you are being yelled at it's because [Tara] does care. If she didn't care, she wouldn't waste her energy. You know if she's telling you something whether it's in a nice way or not, you can take whatever she says and make it neutral, like she's just giving you advice. If maybe she yells at you for not running, just think ok, maybe she just wants me to run a little harder, maybe she wants me to get out in the lanes. If you can put a positive spin on anything, I think you can really see what she's trying to tell you. Not necessarily just Tara, but any coach or any player too. Because in the heat of the moment, how someone says something is probably going to come out snappy or maybe a little not nice. But I think that people just need to realize it's not personal. No one is attacking you as a person. They're just telling you what to do."

What message would Hones like to send to fans about the team this year?

"I feel that a lot of people have been talking about Candice (Wiggins) - how are we going to recover without Candice, how are we going to be able to do this? But while everyone misses Candice, me in particular because she made everyone look better, I feel people should look out for other people bringing enthusiasm and energy. Look out for our freshmen bringing it sometimes. Look out for still very unselfish play. That's why I think a lot of people did like us last year, because we would make three extra passes for a wide open lay-up instead of an outside shot that maybe they'll make, maybe they won't. Watch for the depth, not only in our wings but also in our post position. It's very exciting. I don't think any guard can dream of a better front line. And our bigs can run too, so look out for them."

Look out for those running bigs and look out for Hones, who has gotten better and better over her first couple of years in a Stanford uniform. With her sweet passing, underrated defense, excellent court vision, and fine outside shot, Hones will be a critical factor in a variety of ways for the Cardinal. She is one of those players who just gets it and helps everybody else get it too.

To view a slide show of Don Anderson's photos taken during this interview with JJ Hones, click HERE.

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