March 17, 2018

By Kate Martin
Virginia women’s basketball assistant director of operations

Third Year forward MonÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘© Jones took a moment between bites of BBQ tacos during Saturday’s open locker room period following Virginia’s NCAA Tournament Second Round practice to give me the scoop on…anything I wanted! Ten minutes of the hot seat presented some fun details of Jones’ story.

Hailing from Durham, N.C., `Mo’, as her teammates call her, grew up a Carolina-turned-Duke-fan, until she abandoned all Carolina collegiate loyalties in high school when she started being seriously recruited by in high school, ready to fully immerse herself in the culture of wherever she would matriculate.

Mo’s very first competitive game of basketball at age eight showed that she had a true instinct for finding the basket, but perhaps her game acumen might not have been as innate.

“I got the ball and made the layup…but it was in the opponent’s basket,” Jones explained with a laugh. Jones has come a long way since then, perfecting her favorite move, The Sugar Hill (two dribbles to the middle and then turn to finish either baseline or middle), and landing final college offers in both the SEC and ACC. Mo ultimately committed to the Cavaliers.

“I just kept coming back to Virginia” Mo said about the decision-making process.

Charlottesville had a lot of positives, including its proximity to her family. The Joneses are regulars at Virginia games — home and on the road — and Mo indicated the importance of having her parents, Sherai and Bobby, nearby as she has worked through injuries over her career. They’ve also been there for the good, such as this weekend here in Columbia, cheering the Hoos as they try to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16. Two of her biggest supporters are also on the pass list this weekend, her Aunt Mae and her grandma Donnie.

“I am just like Grandma Donnie,” Mo said, emphasizing the word just. Similar to Donnie, Mo is certain to always look put together with nails done, and hair freshly styled (Donnie has a “hair appointment every Thursday”) and each maintain a certain swagger about themselves that Mo asserts she undoubtedly inherited from Donnie. In that, she has a particular taste for fashion that may carry forward to her career. Mo’s post-collegiate interests currently lie in sports broadcasting and entrepreneurship. When asked to expand on what she meant by `entrepreneurship’, Mo explained that, potentially in conjunction with teammate Shakyna Payne, she would love to start her own clothing line.

“I just can’t ever find everything I need in one store, jeans, tops, accessories, so we have talked about starting a business that does that.”

She noted that her height often leads her to have to check multiple designers, and she wants to amend that. At a towering 5’2″, I can relate (on the opposite spectrum, of course), and I requested that she keep us petites in mind as she plans her future ventures.

In addition to her love of fashion (her favorite color is baby pink, in case you were wondering), Mo has some other artistic hobbies. She has spent time singing in a variety of choruses over she years. She is reluctant to narrow down her favorite genre, as she loves to belt “just about anything…but probably R&B.” She and her fellow teammates have been strongly in favor of installing a karaoke machine to the team lounge this season. If Mo is ready to showcase her vocals, perhaps it will appear.

As we were reaching the final moments of our open locker room session, Mo shared with me her favorite off-court moment of the NCAA Tournament. Following the already thrilling First Round victory last night, Mo spotted Carolina Panthers head Coach Ron Rivera in the team hallway post-game. Virginia’s athletic trainer Craig Oates was elevated to hero status in her eyes as he snapped a picture of Mo and Coach Rivera, a California alum, together.

As a Panthers fan, and even bigger Cam Newton fan, Mo felt like the moment nearly “got her to Cam”, though she is still hoping for an in person meet and greet one day. Her dad, Bobby, was always a big Terrell Owens fan as he moved across NFL teams, and both Bobby and Mo find Cam to be a similar dynamic athlete.

“At 6’6″, it’s amazing what he can do,” Mo said of Newton. “He’s just impressive and fun to watch.” Bobby can be found every Panthers game day sporting his Newton jersey, sitting in his recliner with beverage of choice chilled in his Cam Newton cup.

“Cam, if you’re reading this, come catch a Virginia Hoops game soon,” Mo said.