Senior forward Jonquel Jones of the top-ranked Riverdale Baptist girls’ basketball team isn’t one of the area’s typical high school players. She’s originally from the city of Freeport in the Bahamas. Her high school coach is also her legal guardian. And at 6 feet 3, she’s a lanky, athletic player and an elite college recruit.
Her skills were on display on Thursday night against nationally ranked Spring Valley (S.C.) in the third annual National Title IX Holiday Classic at Trinity Washington University in Northeast. She scored 14 points and added 10 rebounds to lead the Crusaders to a 53-50 win.
But just as fascinating as her abilities on the court is Jones’s story off it. She first heard of Riverdale Baptist when she was a promising but raw sophomore at Tabernacle Baptist in the Bahamas through a former Crusader player, Jurelle Nairn.
After Jones and her parents visited the Upper Marlboro school, they decided to leave Jones under the care of Riverdale Baptist Coach Diane Richardson. Jones, then only 5 feet 9, wanted to come to the United States. to develop on the court and earn a Division I basketball scholarship.
“When she came, she wasn’t this tall, but she was a lot of legs and not our style of basketball,” Richardson said. “She played JV her 10th grade year. A lot of people don’t know that when you look at her now.”
After much hard work, which included donning gloves to practice even in the winter months, Jones developed into a top college prospect while learning a new style of basketball and culture.
“It’s a great experience,” said Jones, who is headed to Clemson. “I have teammates who share the same kind of love for the game and intensity so it was easy coming in.”
On Thursday, Jones guided the Crusaders (11-1) in a sloppy, closely contested game and helped them build a 50-38 lead with over three minutes left. But after Spring Valley (9-3) cut the deficit to 52-50 with 14 seconds left, Dominique Johnson hit one of two free throws and Jones played tough defense on Spring Valley’s final three-point attempt.
In mid-February, when the Crusaders play in the Bahamas, Jones will get a chance to play in front of her parents, Preston and Ettamae, who have never seen her in action in a Riverdale Baptist uniform.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I’m very excited.”
In an earlier game Thursday, St. John’s senior All-Met guard Mooriah Rowser was fouled on a jump shot with two seconds left against Mater Dei (Calif.). Roswer (18 points) hit both shots to lift the No. 2 Cadets (9-3) to a 56-54 win.
“It’s one of the most nerve-wracking feelings,” she said. “But when the game is on the line, you have to make them.”