A ‘red carpet’ welcome home for Jonquel Jones

JONQUEL JONES and Buddy Hield are surrounded by junkanoo dancers during their welcome home over the weekend.
Photo by Vandyke Hepburn/BIS

JONQUEL JONES and Buddy Hield are surrounded by junkanoo dancers during their welcome home over the weekend. Photo by Vandyke Hepburn/BIS


Senior Sports Reporter


HOLMES Rock, Grand Bahama — Jonquel Jones hails from a little settlement that reads on its sign: Welcome to Holmes Rock, the home of Togetherness. It’s an unique community that sits in between Eight Mile Rock and West End and now is popularised by the second Bahamian to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Despite its togetherness, Jones was speechless as the Grand Bahama Power Company, HOYTES, the Ministry for Grand Bahama and the Bahamas Basketball Federation came together on Saturday to welcome her home with a “red carpet” treatment at the Grand Bahama International Airport.

And although it rained on the parade, the 22-year-old Jones was still escorted on a motorcade to her hometown settlement, ending up on the basketball court at the Community Center where she harnessed her skills as a basketball player.

“It’s been great. I was expecting a celebration, but I didn’t expect it to be the way it was in the airport,” said Jones, who was greeted by hundreds of cheering family members and friends to the rhythmic sounds of the junkanoo music in the background. “It was like a party, literally it was a party in the airport, so I was definitely ecstatic to see all of that. I was just grateful to see that Grand Bahama and the GB Power really care and to come together to make this thing really happen.”

Taking advantage of the break as the WNBA allows its players to get prepared to travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to participate for their respective countries at the 2016 Olympic Games from August 5-21, Jones said this gives her a good chance to put her career in prospective, now a rookie with the Connecticut Suns.

She thanked her parents Preston and Ettamae Jones and all those persons, including Gladstone ‘Moon’ McPhee, who would have played a pivotal role in her success so far.

“I used to always be out here creating scenario and acting like Kobe or Lisa Leslie, but little did I know I would be coming home from a league where all of the greats have played,” she stressed. “It’s the highest level, but it’s a level that requires a lot from me so I will continue to work hard to ensure that I am on my game at all things and hopefully get better so that I can be one of the best that ever played in it.”

Looking over the community center that hosted a newly painted basketball court where she played as a youngster, Jones could only shake her head and said: “This is it. “

“Every time during the ceremony that someone said Holmes Rock, it definitely filled my heart,” she lamented. “This is probably the best I’ve seen the park since I lived here. I’m telling you. I’ve never seen the park like this. You have all of the kids enjoying themselves in the bouncing castle, we gat food and drinks, man, it’s an awesome feeling to be home right now. I’m really going to enjoy this week.”

Sara McDonald, president of the Grand Bahama Power Company, said they wanted to create an atmosphere that will be reminiscence of Jones and the manner in which she conducted herself and so they were elated to partner with Gladstone ‘Moon’ McPhee and Fred Sturrup in putting on a fitting tribute to honor Jones for her achievement.

“We have always been a huge sponsor of coach McPhee and his HOYTES programme and we love the fact that we have the first Bahamian female drafted from Holmes Rock and we just wanted her to know that she had a whole island of 50,000 people cheering for her every step of the way,” McDonald said. “It does not matter wither its the NBA or the WNBA. We feel she should be recognized for an incredible contribution.

“We didn’t want to make it a fancy thing with all of the speeches and all that formal stuff. We wanted it to be something that the community that supported her would enjoy, so the kids are here, there’s the bouncing castles, free food, free drinks and everybody can get a chance to mix and mingle with Jonquel Jones. It doesn’t get any better than this. I know she has a very busy week ahead of her before she go, so we will support her in anyway that we can.”

Jones’ return home on the weekend came as Grand Bahama’s first NBA draftee Chavano ‘Buddy’ Hield was wrapping up a week stay in the capital. Hield returned to Grand Bahama on Sunday where he was also greeted at the airport and escorted in a motorcade to begin a joint week long celebrations on the island for the two players, who incidentally were selected with the sixth picks in the recent WNBA and NBA drafts.

The two were recognized on Friday night when their portraits were unveiled with others on the Walk of Fame at the entrance of the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. While she was gracious in the gesture extended to her in her absence, Jones said she felt it was premature, but she will gladly accept the accolade.

“I still have a lot to accomplish. Me and Buddy had great college careers. We’ve accomplished a lot,” said Jones, who is still be celebrated at George Washington as one of the greatest players to play for the Colonials women’s basketball team. “Some of the people in the Hall of Fame were people who solidified themselves throughout their careers. I appreciate it and I am honoured to bed a part of it, but I just feel that I can’t let that get me complacent and stop me from becoming the player that I want to be.

“I appreciate it, but I still have a lot to accomplish too.”

Jones is coming of her first career double-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals in a Suns’ 94-89 win over the Chicago Sky. The 6-6 Jones has shown flashes of all-around dominance this season, using her versatility to stretch the floor and length to control the paint on both ends. Connecticut has now won five of their last eight games (including four wins on the road), and are just one game back of the 8th and final playoff spot.

McPhee, an advocate for more recognition for Jones since she made the quantum leap, said it’s finally good to see the community coming together and doing something that should have been done a long time ago.

“In this time when we’re talking about gender equality, it’s hard that you have to fight some recognition for her,” McPhee pointed out, “In a way it’s sad, but it came, so I thank Sara McDonald because Sara had a daughter who played in the HOYTES programme and shed stepped on board. The only problem we had was the rain, but everything went very well. It’s a well deserved recognition for her. She’s a good girl and will become a great WNBA player.”

With Hield coming back home, McPhee said it should be an exciting time for the island to showcase the two outstanding players who have gone on to make it to the WNBA and the NB. The two new superstars reunited on Sunday as the celebrations in Grand Bahama continued.

“They are very good friends who came up through the HOYTE programme and so I’m just glad to know that we would have played a role in their success, especially Jonquel,” said McPhee, the founder and president of HOYTES, Helping Our Youth Through Education and Sports. “Grand Bahama will never be the same, having the two of them back home together again.”

While at home, Jones said she enjoy to enjoy as much “Bahamian food” as she can, spend some time with her family and fiends, but continue to put in the work to stay in tip top shape so that she can be ready to when the WNBA. In Tuesday’s edition, Jones will talk about her career so far and her drafting in the Korean League.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment