By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
JONQUEL Jones’ offseason in China has seen her become one of the league’s most dominant players as she leads her team into this weekend’s Championship series.Jones leads the Shanxi Xing Rui Flames into the championship of the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association for a best-of-five matchup against the Beijing Great Wall.
The championship series tips off March 10 with game two on the 12th and game three on the 14th respectively.
The star forward for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun is averaging a team-high 29.3 points, 18.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists over 31 games for Shanxi Xing Rui.
She closed out game three of the semi-finals with a 31-point, 14-rebound performance in a 78-69 win over Guandong.
In game two she also led the team with 42 points, 22 rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks in an 88-84 win.
In game one she totalled 34 points, 22 rebounds and three blocked shots in a 73-62 win.
The finals will feature the WNBA’s most improved player, head-to-head with the league’s reigning MVP Sylvia Fowles who leads the Great Wall.
Fowles and the Great Wall got the better of both regular season matchups against the Flame, including the most recent meeting on January 6.
Jones finished with 31 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots, but her Shanxi Xing Rui suffered a 96-92 loss to Fowles and the Great Wall.
Fowles, the Minnesota Lynx perennial All-Star, finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. Both Jones and Fowles finished with 20 double doubles over the course of the WNBA season.
Shanxi XR has been the second ranked scoring team at 84.8 points per game and second ranked assist team at 15.8 per game and tops in rebounding at 37.9 boards per game.
The WCBA is the top-tier professional women’s basketball league in China and is the women’s counterpart to the Chinese Basketball Association.
The 2017-18 WCBA will include a 26-round regular season and playoffs, as well as All-Star weekend on January 20, 2018. The league expanded by two clubs this year to bring the total number of teams to 14. The top eight teams advanced to the playoffs. Jones’ last offseason propelled her into becoming the WNBA’s Most Improved Player, an All-Star and an All-WNBA Second Team selection, leaving fans and pundits eager to see what this offseason will bring.
Jones was selected No. 5 overall by Woori Bank in the Korean Basketball League and led the team to a championship title. On the season she averaged 15.8 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks - all team leads - in 24 minutes per game for Woori Bank in 38 games.
At the league’s award ceremony, Jones earned the Foreign Most Valuable Player Award, Defensive Player of the Year award and was named “Best Five” in the league. She finished the year averaging 15.5 points and 11.9 rebounds per game - a dramatic increase from her rookie season when she averaged 6.8 points and 3.7 rebounds a game.