Can I be a little bit spicy here? This is a safe space, right? Maybe this isn’t the most W thing to say, but I’m tired of us having to keep it rah-rah all the time. They don’t put the same expectations on the NBA guys, right? People have been asking me the same questions all season, like, “Jonquel, how’d you make this big leap? Where’s all this coming from?”
The short answer, or the diplomatic answer, is work.
But the honest answer is that I’ve had a CHIP on my shoulder for the last two years. I’ve been on a mission ever since we lost to the Mystics in the Finals. It still doesn’t sit right with me. All respect to them, but in my mind that was our title. We had them on the ropes, and we just fumbled the bag, man. Emma got hot and they went on a run, and the rest is history.
I remember walking off the court as the Mystics were celebrating, and when I got to the tunnel I just let out this scream from the depths of my soul. I was like fully blacked out from the emotions of everything, and I don’t even really remember doing it, but there happened to be a photographer standing right there. You can see in a single frame just how much it meant to me — and to all of us.
Every time we’ve been down to D.C. to play the Mystics this season, I say the same thing when we get to the building: “Mannnn, I hate this f***ing locker room.”
That’s no shots at the Mystics.
The players? We’re cool.
The organization? Cool.
The fans? Cool.
But that locker room? Nope. I hate it. You know how certain environments just got that stink on them, and they bring back bad vibes? I just can’t stand going out there for shootaround and seeing that championship banner hanging. I just look up at it like, Dang. You’re in the wrong gym. You’re supposed to be with us.
I think about that pain every day, and that’s really what’s been fueling my evolution.
It’s kind of like anime. Do y’all mess with anime? If you do, then you’ll get me. Naruto isn’t Naruto without Sasuke, right? MJ wouldn’t have been MJ without the Bad Boys Pistons. You need the nemesis. The catalyst. The yin and the yang. You need that thing that gets you up in the morning when you’re not really feeling it.
For me, that’s the 2019 Finals.
That’s that banner they got hanging up in D.C., taunting us.
I just can’t stand going out there for shootaround and seeing that championship banner hanging.- Jonquel Jones
Obviously, when we walked off the court that night, I didn’t think I’d have to wait two full years to get a taste of playoff basketball again. We were all so ready to make another run. But then the pandemic hit, and I decided to sit out the 2020 bubble season for a lot of reasons — some that may be obvious, some maybe not. It was a really stressful time and, to be honest, I kind of needed a break, both mentally and physically.
I don’t think people fully fully realize that professional basketball is 24/7, 365 for women. The men, they get a nice vacation. They get to go chill on Grecian yachts for their IG or whatever. They get a real summer. And that’s cool. But for me, it’s not even really about that. What I get jealous of is the basketball side of it. They get to reset and go into the lab and really work on their craft. They’re in the gym in July and August sharpening all kinds of new tools — “Oh, lemme add a midrange step-back. Lemme add a Eurostep. Lemme get into the gym with my trainer and work on my hesi for five days straight.”
We’d kill for that kind of time.
But instead we gotta hop on a plane to Europe or Asia and keep getting those checks. There’s no break for us. And I’m not complaining. I love what I do. I’m just a girl from the Bahamas who used to dream about this. Every day I wake up, I’m thankful. But I’m just trying to make you understand the difference. You don’t just turn up to a new season in the W with a new tool in your toolbox without having had the time to work on it for hours and hours.
That’s what I was finally able to do when I opted out in 2020. I was just posted up back home in the Bahamas playing video games and working out, pretty much every day. And I basically trained like a 6' 6" guard. I worked on my ballhandling and my Eurostep in the lane and my body-control under pressure. I was looking at Dirk, at KD — at players with my size who can be versatile and stretch the whole floor. Basically just trying to level up my whole offensive game.
It really was an essential break for my mind, body and soul, man.
There was so much darkness and uncertainty going on in the world at the time, and even in my personal life. I was kind of going through it for a minute, I’m not gonna lie. But there’s just something about stepping onto the basketball court that’s like medicine for me. You can be having the worst day in the world, and it’s like the minute you step onto that floor and get the ball in your hands it’s like ... Alright. We’re cool. We’re good.
Nothing else exists. It’s just ball.
By the time this season rolled around, I was champing at the bit. As a team, we just knew from the jump that it was title or bust. And I’m not even going to bring up how SLEPT ON we’ve been all season. Especially after we lost in the Commissioner's Cup. It would be petty to bring up how everybody was out on us after one bad game.
So I’m not gonna do it.
I’m really not gonna do it.
(Lord, give me patience.)
All jokes aside, I’ve been so locked in that I’ve been blocking out a lot of the media stuff this year. But over the summer, I was getting some buzz when I was playing for Bosnia at the EuroBasket tournament, and I think a lot of it had to do with my new nickname. Bosnia is the Lady Dragons, and everybody knows I love Game of Thrones, so they bestowed me with the nickname Khaleesi.
Then it turned into the Mother of Dragons.
Jonquel Jones, First of Her Name, and all that stuff.
Pretty good, right? I think we need some merch. (Don’t sue me, George.)
Anyway, I was really cooking over there during EuroBasket, and I guess my highlights were going around on social media, and I was getting all these notifications. But I’m locked in, so I’m ignoring them right? Then one day I’m scrolling on my phone, just kind of half paying attention, and I see this request from this one dude.
And I’m like ... Wait a minute. Is that KD???
I see the blue check and I’m like, Ohhhhhhhhh shoot!!!!
He had sent me a message, and I wasn’t even following him for some reason. I knew that people were tweeting stuff like “Yo, Jonquel is really the female KD!” But I didn’t think he’d see it, let alone hit me up.
So I immediately read the message, and he was just showing me love like, Hey, keep balling out. You’re unstoppable. Just keep doing your thing.
I reply back like, My bad KD! I’m just seeing this!!! Thank you so much!! You know why I wear 35, right???
I told him we need to get in the gym together soon. That’s somebody who I’ve been watching since I was in high school. So for people to see comparisons between our games? It’s just really dope.
We need more KDs out there who really follow the game. The whole game. Look, I’m a very, very competitive person. (If you couldn’t already tell from the intro!!!) But just as a pure basketball fan, there’s so much good hooping going on in the W right now. Like, just look at the Liberty and the Mercury going blow for blow the other night in round 1. Come on, man!!!
It kind of drives me crazy sometimes that we’re still fighting for exposure for even our biggest matchups. Like, if I can be really spicy for a second, we played the Mercury at the end of the regular season while we were both on 10-game winning streaks, and most people couldn’t even watch the game on TV. How do you have a matchup like that and it’s not on TVs nationwide, man? Can you imagine that happening in the NBA?
Nah. You can’t.
“Oh, but Jonquel, actually it’s complicated because….”
Nah. Come on, man.
Here, I’ll even give you one of those little packages to run before the game….
Because literally, I was banging in the paint that night with a person I really looked up to when I was growing up. I remember my freshman year in college, my coach surprised me with tickets to a Mystics game for my birthday, and it was one of the highlights of my life. I’m this girl from the Bahamas, in this new environment in America, just trying to figure everything out, and I’d never been to a W game before. And these tickets were sick. They were almost courtside. I remember watching the game in awe, and at one point I turned to my coach and I was like, “Coach!!! This is crazy!!! I’ve never been this close before. Man, we’re so close I can even see Brittney Griner’s tattoos!!!”
Hahahaha. I remember when I started playing in Russia and BG actually became my teammate, I waited until my second year playing with her to tell her that story. I had to get cool with her first before I could drop that one, you know? She thought that was hilarious.
And now we’re playing each other in the middle of 10-game winning streaks??? There’s your package. Let’s get that on SportsCenter.
We were both on 10-game winning streaks, and most people couldn’t even watch the game on TV.- Jonquel Jones
And that’s my main thing. There’s so much cool s*** going on in this league, and these playoffs. There’s so many hungry teams, especially with the electricity of the fans being back in the buildings. It’s tough. It’s competitive. It’s a great time to be a basketball fan.
But lemme tell you something.
NOBODY is hungrier than us.
We’re downright starving, man.
We heard what y’all were saying all year. Or what you weren’t saying. We know the deal. We’re good. There are no more tickets on the bandwagon, man. If you’ve been riding with us for a while now, then you already know what it is.
It’s banner or bust.
We want the whole league coming into Mohegan Sun next year, looking up at the rafters and rolling their eyes, like, “Mannnnnn, I hate this f***ing place.”