Alexis Jones is obviously a talented basketball player. ESPN ranked her the third best high school player in the nation when she signed to play at Duke University. Jones won the 2013 ACC tournament MVP as a Blue Devil and made two All-Big 12 teams after transferring to Baylor. However, she had yet to make her mark in Los Angeles after getting traded to the Sparks in April. That all changed on Tuesday night against the team that drafted her, the Minnesota Lynx.
Breaking out against the Lynx
Against Minnesota, Alexis Jones put up 15 points and two rebounds in just 16 minutes of play. She scored 14 of her points in the second quarter. She shot a very efficient 71% from the field, 50% from beyond the three-point line. It was a performance the Sparks were waiting to get from her.
”It was down for me to get one in and got one in on Minnesota, I just played my role,” said Jones, who the Lynx traded for Odyssey Sims in April. “I came off the bench, tried to come in with high energy, shoot the right shots and just get back into the flow, so I can help the team out, help Chelsea out.”
Her teammates loved what Jones brought to the table against Minnesota and they want to see more of it.
”I just liked her agression. She was decisive. She came out and took what the defense gave her. That’s kind of what we see from her, we’ve seen glimpses this season and that’s what we need her to be,” said Sparks Forward/Center Candace Parker.
An impressive game against her former Minnesota Lynx team does a lot for the 25-year-old Jones’ confidence, especially coming back from a knee injury.
”It shows that I can knock down shots, coming off ball screens, getting to the rim, not missing layups,” Jones explained. “I talked to him (Coach Fish) about that. I want him to trust me as much as possible so I can give Chelsea those little bitty breaks so she can go back in well rested and come back in the game stronger than ever.”
However, Jones went scoreless in the second half where she showed some indecisiveness in situations where she needed to either make a move or pass the ball, which led to five second half turnovers.
”My mistakes just showed that I was trying to be aggressive and poised at the same time and everything is going to come. I won’t make those mistakes anymore. I’m not feeling good about the second half but I’m going to take what I can take so we can count it [as my breakout game],” Jones told W-Insidr with a chuckle.
Jones’s potential at backup point guard
Jones has now found herself in a prime position to be the backup point guard in LA. As the Sparks prepare for the playoff push, Jones’s impact may be subtle. But Jones is arguably one of the most important players on the Sparks roster.
“I just have to keep my confidence level up and when I’m open knock down shots and just keep playing hard,” said Jones, who won the 2017 WNBA Championship with the Minnesota. “My role is to come off the bench and be that better half for any player that’s out there… having that energy and that drive and will to get to the basket, make the right defensive plays, each possession. That’s what I consider my role on this team.”
Jones’ role as a backup point guard is integral to the Sparks. She allows Chelsea Gray to play off the ball and gives Gray a break from the demands of initiating offensive sets for 30 plus minutes a game.
“Anything I can do, I’m just trying to stay the course and stay confident and just play my role on the defense and offensive end,” Jones said.
Jones’ presence also allows the Sparks coaching staff to scheme different looks for ISO Gray. The staff knows that they can rely on Jones’s 3-point who is a capable 3-point shooter and crafty ball-handling as well as her defense.
Sparks General Manager Penny Toler described Jones as a talented point guard who can stretch the defense with her 3-point shooting.
“She has already shown flashes of great play at both ends of the court. She brings playoffs and championship experience winning the WNBA Championship in 2017,” said Toler after the trade was announced.
“I’m thankful that LA gave me an opportunity to come over here and a be a part of a great organization. I appreciate Penny. She’s talked to me a lot and she’s given me the confidence,” Jones told W-Insidr during Sparks training camp in May 2019.
Finding her place (and minutes)
Jones was a crucial, clutch player during the Minnesota Lynx 2017 WNBA Championship run against the Sparks. But the former 12th-overall pick has seen sporadic playing time. Interestingly enough, the Sparks selected her now-teammate Sydney Wiese with the 11th pick in 2017. This past season, Wiese and Jones played overseas in Israel together.
“It’s been a blast playing with her, we’re pregame shooting buddies and we’re roommates on the road, so we’ve gotten to know each other. It’s been a blast to get to know her and to have deep conversation about everything,” said Sparks Guard Sydney Wiese.
Wiese was not surprised when Jones went off against the Lynx.
”That’s Lex. She’s been busting her butt throughout the month where she was off for injury, she was working and you saw that (Tuesday), how good she is, what we see every day in practice. She’s been staying the course, making sure that she takes care of her body, takes care of her mind,” Wiese said.
”I dealt with the same thing last season, it can wear on yourself mentally and she’s handled it. I’m supre proud and happy for her and for the work she’s put in and that it’s paying off,” Wiese added.
Meanwhile, Wiese’s ascension into the Sparks primary rotation as a player who can play the 1, 2 or 3, has streamlined Jones’ role, narrowing Jones’ playing time as Chelsea Gray’s backup.
However in the past, Jones said she was able to learn a lot by watching players like Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles. With the Lynx, she only averaged about three points and less than one assist, playing about eight minutes a game in over her first two years in Minnesota.
Since she recovered from a recent knee injury, Jones was immediately inserted back into the Sparks 10-player rotation as a key reserve. Jones is averaging 4.9 points and two assists in about 14 minutes for the Sparks. She has routinely been the primarily ball handler off the bench.
“I just love that she wasn’t fazed by the ups and downs of the game. She just came in and she was trying her best to just do whatever she could, contributing in the best way that she can to support us. (She’s) always open to figuring out how she can impact the game positively and she just didn’t give up,” said Sparks All-Star Nneka Ogwumike after Jones first game back on August 1. “Aggressive and she looked like she was happy to be playing.”
“For her to play like that, she was just ready,” said Kalani Brown, who also played with Jones at Baylor University.
LA Sparks Head Coach Derek Fisher has also complimented Jones for playing hard and most importantly not being afraid of the moment. Jones knows it’s a process but she’s willing to do whatever she can to contribute to the Sparks.
“I’m just trying to keep getting a feel and keep getting better each and every game. Keep pushing keep pushing and make an outbreak one time,” Jones said. “I’m just trying to do my best and give the team what they need at (this time).”