By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
After she opted out of the 2020 WNBA season, Jonquel Jones made her official return to the basketball court this week in the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League.
Jones led UMMC Ekaterinburg Foxes with 35 points and 13 rebounds in an 84-72 win over Nika Syktykar in their season debut.
The veteran forward had a dominant shooting performance, 13-19 from the field (1-2 from three point range) and 6-7 from the free throw line. She also had two blocked shots on the defensive end of the floor.
Jones’ strong play early led the Foxes to a 58-48 lead at the half and a 62-48 lead headed into the fourth quarter. They eventually led by as much as 17 points in the final period.
UMMC will play their next Premier league game and make their home debut on October 19 in Ekaterinburg when they face Spartak.
Jones is in her third season with UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Last season, the team captured Russian Premier League and the EuroLeague women’s championship. They won their second consecutive and fifth EuroLeague title with a 91-67 win over Dynamo Kursk in Sopron, Hungary in April.
Jones appeared in eight games and averaged 19.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. She shot 60 percent from the field, 52 percent from three point range and 80 percent from the free throw line.
A stacked UMMC Ekaterinburg roster also included WNBA stars Brittney Griner and Cortney Vandersloot. The team recently added current WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm.
Jones, the Connecticut Sun star, opted out of the shortened WNBA season amid COVID-19 pandemic concerns.
In the 2019 WNBA season, she was named to the All-WNBA Second Team, the All-Defensive Team and an All-Star for the second time, cited personal reasons and uncertainty around the pandemic.
The Sun advanced to the Eastern Conference final before they were eliminated by the Las Vegas Aces.
Jones signed a multi-year contract with the Sun in February as the league’s free agency period commenced.
The Sun fell one game short in their historic run toward a WNBA Championship in 2019, but Jones established herself as one of the premier players in the league with her standout season.
In addition to her aforementioned accolades, she finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting and was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week four times.
Jones finished the regular season with starts in all 34 appearances, averaged 14.6 points, and posted career highs in steals (1.5 per game) and minutes played (28.8 per game). She also won her second rebounding title in four seasons. Jones led the league in rebounds with 9.7 boards and blocked shots at a career-high 2.0 per game. She also finished fourth in defensive rebounds with 6.4 per game. She grabbed 10 or more rebounds 16 times, including a season-high 22 rebounds on May 31.