No hidden talent

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GREENEVILLE — Even wearing a protective mask, Jasmine Jones was easy to recognize in Tuesday's opening round of the Landair Ladies Basketball Classic.

She was the one with the silky moves and the graceful athleticism. Clearly, you can't mask talent.

Despite a broken nose that necessitated the protective face-gear, the 6-foot-1 Lady Vol signee put on quite a show. Playing 30 of the contest's 32 minutes, she hit 6 of 9 shots from the field and 3 of 6 from the foul line en route to a game-high 15 points. She also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, recorded a game-high 5 steals, blocked a couple of shots and dished out an assist.

She rimmed out a potential game-tying 3-point try at the buzzer, however, as her Bob Jones High team of Madison, Ala., was upended 49-46 by Science Hill High of Johnson City, Tenn. The Lady Patriots, ranked No. 1 among Alabama's Class 6A teams, fell to 14-2, leaving Jones a little disappointed in her performance.

"It wasn't enough to help my team win the game," she said. "But we all worked hard. We all played together, and that's all that really matters."

Jones refused to use her broken nose or the mask protecting it as alibis.

"It's not a distraction," she said. "I can breathe and see."

Jones suffered the injury a month ago and was told by doctors to wear the protective mask for 4-6 weeks. Her mother, former University of Alabama standout LaTrish Jones, has other ideas.

"My mom wants me to wear the mask for the rest of the season," Jones said.

Playing in Greeneville — just 65 miles from UT's campus in Knoxville — gave her a taste of Tennessee. She clearly liked the flavor.

"I felt like I was at home," she said, flashing a soft smile.

Although she is an elite athlete, Jones says her game needs a lot of fine-tuning before she's ready to suit up for the Lady Vols next November.

"I'm still working; I'm not satisfied," she said. "I need to work on my off-the-dribble shooting and my ballhandling. I believe my effort is there. Mental toughness has a lot to do with it. I just need to be strong and keep evolving. And I need to keep working on my rebounding."

As the tallest player on her high school team, Jones generally plays near the basket. Small forward may be her best bet at the college level, however, so she probably needs to refine her perimeter skills. She has a nice stroke, and should be a dangerous 3-point shooter in time.

"My shooting has gotten better since last year," she said, "but I still need to work on my outside game. I've shot some 3s this year. We have a play where the 4 is the trailer (in transition) and takes the shot from the top of the key. I've been working on that."

Historically, Tennessee is known for its defense. Jones admits she isn't up to Lady Vol standards in this area just yet, especially if she's called upon to defend on the perimeter.

"My defense is getting better," she said. "I realize I have to learn how to guard guards but it's kind of exciting."

Because most of Tennessee's inside players are down to their final year of eligibility, Jones has a great opportunity to step in and make immediate impact as a freshman next season ... perhaps start. She is acutely aware of the exodus of seniors but not altogether thrilled about it.

"It's exciting to get a chance to come in and play," she said, sheepishly adding: "But I wish they had at least one more year."

With Pat Summitt battling early onset dementia, Alzheimers type, there is a chance that Jones will not get to play all four of her college seasons for the legendary Lady Vol coach. Jones isn't worried, however.

"The things she has done with that program ... I can't even describe it," she said. "Tennessee is where I've wanted to go since I was little, so I don't think that (Summitt's retirement) would change anything."


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