Ex-Olympian Marion Jones works out for Shock
BY LYNN JACOBSEN World Sports Writer
Sunday, March 07, 2010
3/07/10 at 6:45 PM
Track and field superstar Marion Jones' bid to get her athletic career back on track brought her to Tulsa on Saturday for a high-intensity workout with Shock coach Nolan Richardson.
Jones was stripped of five medals she won in the 2000 Summer Olympics after she admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs prior to the Summer Games.
She was given a six-month prison sentence after she admitted lying to federal prosecutors.
Now, at age 34 and after giving birth to her third child just eight months ago, Jones is attempting an athletic comeback — this time in basketball.
"I started to think about wanting to get back into the world of sport last year," Jones said after a high-intensity workout with Ashley Golston, Chelsea Ledbetter and Verressa Gaston and in front of Richardson and Shock assistants Wayne Stehlik and Tammy Bagby. "I have an enormous passion for the game of basketball and I felt like I still had something to contribute to the world of sports.
"I've been training in San Antonio for a couple of months. I looked at different teams and to where I thought I would best fit in. I contacted (Richardson) and we've had conversations. I thought, why not come up and work out for him and see what he thinks."
The Shock opens the season May 15 against the Minnesota Lynx at the BOK Center.
Jones has not played basketball since leaving North Carolina in 1997, choosing instead to concentrate on her track career. But as a freshman point guard with the Tar Heels, she helped UNC win a national title in 1994.
Despite a nagging ankle injury, Jones ran the floor with ease and defended well in Saturday's workout, two trademarks of her college years.
"She had a good workout," Richardson said. "The staff and I will evaluate what we saw and we'll go from there. She's awfully fast. You can see she's a well-conditioned athlete, maybe not so much in basketball shape. You can tell she has great work ethic.
"I visited with (North Carolina coach) Sylvia (Hatchell) and she was really high on (Jones) from the standpoint of a person with maturity and leadership skills. All those qualities are important in basketball to me."
Jones, who was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in 2003 and has reportedly worked out for other teams in the past, admits she sought out Richardson because of his up-tempo style.
"I knew from watching him years back at Arkansas that his style of play is up and down the basketball court. Anyone that knows me, that's certainly my speciality. When I was at North Carolina, that's how we played the game. We weren't half-court style of basketball. ... When he invited me to work out for him, I certainly jumped at the chance. I thought today went pretty well. I look forward to hearing back from him."
Richardson declined to commit on the chance that Jones would be invited back, but did say that "he liked what he saw."
"Her shooting is not quite as crisp as it could be," Richardson said. "But in a month's time, you'll see that change. She's the type of athlete that will push herself, but she also needs some help on her shot."
For Jones, a return to sports would be a blessing after the criticism she has endured over the past few years.
"To me, it's a lot bigger than just an opportunity to play basketball," she said. "It's an opportunity to share my personal message to a lot more people. I'm a competitor, I want to win. So I want to be a success on the court.
"It's been a rough, challenging journey for me the past few years. It's pretty much made me stronger. You never get past certain things. I'm sure everyone will reflect on the past and that's fine. I understand that, I accept that, but I'm on track now and looking forward."
Lynn Jacobsen 581-8461
Tulsa Shock head coach Nolan Richardson talks with embattled former Olympian Marion Jones after a workout session on the practice court at the Mabee Center on Saturday. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World