Favorite athlete: Zach Ertz
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Cities Tournament for St. Andrews in 8th grade
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Junior year, when someone threw the ball at my head in the middle of a basketball game against Pennsbury and continued to play.
Music on mobile device: Country
Future plans: Attend college and major in early elementary and special ed
Words to live by: “Take time and do what makes your soul happy.”
One goal before turning 30: Travel to Europe
One thing people don’t know about me: I’m extremely superstitious, and I will do the same thing and eat the same thing until we lose!
By Mary Jane Souder
Abby Jones is something close to a coach’s dream. Listening to her coaches tell it, the Council Rock North senior is the very definition of a good teammate and captain.
“Abby has had her ups and downs this season, but it never affects the way she interacts with people,” North basketball coach Jim Roynan said. “I’ve never seen her yell at a teammate, I’ve never once seen her criticize a teammate.
“I’ve seen her talk to teammates, but it’s always been in a supportive, positive way. It’s something as a coach you want to instill in your team, but you’re never sure how it’s going to play out because of the different personalities involved, but it’s never been an issue with Abby.”
“Abby is a great role model,” North volleyball coach Michael Adams said. “She is the perfect captain who leads verbally and by example. She makes others around her better just being herself on and off the court.”
Jones, a captain of both her volleyball and basketball squads, had some misgivings entering her final high school basketball season. That’s hardly a surprise considering Jones would be the lone returning senior on a squad that included one other senior who had not played last year, two juniors with the remainder freshmen and sophomores.
“I did think to myself – ‘Do I want to do this? This is going to be frustrating,’” Jones said. “Now looking back on it, if I didn’t do it, I would have been mad at myself. I would definitely go back and do it again – 100 percent.”
That’s not to say it’s been easy. Jones, a four-year varsity player, was part of 60 wins and two conference championships during her first three years with the program. This year, the Indians won just five of 22 games, results that were decidedly unexpected to the senior captain.
“I just thought we might lose to Pennsbury and Neshaminy,” Jones said of the conference’s top two squads. “Coming in and losing to other teams and we lost all of our games at the (holiday tournament) at the shore – it kind of took my breath away a bit.”
Roynan entered his first season at the helm with no illusions.
“Council Rock North girls’ basketball has been very successful, and it was really important that she and I get on the same page about what we expected from the season, what I thought Abby’s influence would be for the team and how that would impact not only this year but set a tone for a young team going forward,” the Indians’ coach said. “I knew it was going to be a difficult season, and on the court, it’s been disappointing, but we’re showing glimpses of what we could be.”
In a recent game against Mount Saint Joseph Academy, the Indians held a 31-30 halftime lead but struggled in the second half of a 61-37 loss.
“We’re seeing the growth of the younger girls,” Roynan said. “That helps me and helps them, but it doesn’t really help Abby because she’s gone after this year.
“We’ve not had success on the floor, but the spirit of the team, the attitude of the team and the energy of the team has never really waivered, and I say that with a lot of respect and affection for Abby’s role in that.”
The Indians’ coach pointed to the varsity’s support of a struggling jayvee as an example.
“It’s girls who haven’t played a lot of basketball and who are learning the game,” Roynan said of the jayvee team. “They’ve had some trials on the court as well.
“To see the energy the varsity puts into the jayvee girls, cheering for them when they make a play and encouraging them when they make a mistake. Again, I think a lot of that has to do with Abby and the way she interacts with her teammates, showing them what it means to be a great teammate, what it means to be supportive and what it means to develop an environment where everybody’s comfortable making mistakes and learning without having to suffer any repercussions from their teammates.
“And rather than repercussions, they get support – ‘Hey, that was a good effort, don’t give up.’ I give a lot of credit to Abby for instilling that kind of energy, that kind of respect for your teammates, and that kind of a culture and environment – we’re all family and we do this together. She’s been a huge part of that.”
Despite the difficulties, Jones wouldn’t have wanted to miss the experience.
“Now that the season is basically over - looking back, I grew so much as a person and I learned so many life lessons outside of basketball,” she said. “It helped me grow and will help me handle situations in the future.”
Jones got her first taste of basketball in third or fourth grade playing for St. Andrew’s CYO. She played for the parish team until sixth grade when she earned a spot on the CYO region team. She also played for the region team in eighth grade. In seventh grade, she joined the AAU circuit and continued playing AAU through her junior year.
When she was in middle school, Jones got her first taste of volleyball, and from seventh grade until the present, she played both sports.
“In the beginning, it was basically all about basketball,” she said. “I loved how competitive it was, and I just loved all the girls I played with.
“But once I became a varsity player for volleyball and I learned how to really play volleyball, it was pretty hard to choose between both of them. I loved both so much.”
A two-year starter in volleyball, she was part of a successful Indian squad that advanced to the state tournament last fall. Ask her what she enjoyed the most about her experience, and she points to her teammates.
“We became super close – we were all sisters, and it was so much fun,” Jones said. “I think us becoming as close as we were got us how far we got because we lost a lot of seniors last year.”
Jones, who was a middle blocker, was one of just three seniors on the squad.
“Abby works hard, is willing to play for her team even when hurt and does all the little things behind the scenes when others are not watching or realizing what needs to be done,” Adams said. “Her positive personality and motivational talks make her teammates listen and buy in when she talks.”
In basketball, Jones made a conscious effort to stay positive.
“It was a little hard at first because I knew it was a lot of girls first time playing a varsity sport,” she said. “Especially basketball – it’s so high paced and so intense.
“I tried to always remind them to keep going strong, to keep being aggressive and even to step back and take a deep breath and slow the game down, always pointing out something they did good at the end of the game – not focus on the wins and losses but focus on how they’re improving. Right now it might not be good, but I said to the juniors the other day – ‘Next year you have the potential to be really good.’”
On Senior Night, Jones’ young teammates expressed their appreciation.
“A lot of the younger girls who I’d never expect to say something came up to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for welcoming me into the program,’” she said. “It really touched me because I didn’t know I made that much of an impact on them.”
It’s hardly a surprise that Jones is looking toward a career in teaching.
“If you know Abby, it fits her perfectly,” Roynan said. “We had a clinic for the girls from Upper Makefield Basketball, and we probably had 30 or 40 girls. It was a good night.
“Abby was with the younger girls, and just watching her interact with the younger kids – they really gravitated to her. At the end of the clinic, I brought the girls together and said, ‘Hey, we really had a great time with you and I want to thank all of our players for showing you how to play basketball. By the way, we’re having Senior Night next week, and Abby is our only returning senior. We’re having a big celebration,’ and they all cheered for her. Just in that short period of time, the girls were able to see what kind of person she is, knowing she’s going to be successful because she’s that kind of person.”
Jones plans to major in Early Elementary Education/Special Education and is deciding between West Chester and West Virginia. She credits working basketball camps over the years for influencing her career choice.
“Getting to work with little kids really inspired me and showed me I can make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
Her basketball coach confirmed that Jones already has done just that.
“It might sound odd because we’re 4-16, but my only regret this season is that I only have Abby for one year because she’s that kind of person who’s a difference maker,” Roynan said. “Not as a basketball player but as a person, and I think that’s more important than as a basketball player.”
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