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Clever's Jones has maximized talents by making a habit of putting in twice the work


Ireland Jones hears college athletes talk about the added hours demanded of them at the next level and she can’t wait to sign up.

Actually, she already has, having signed a letter of intent with Baptist Bible College, er, Mission University.

“They’ve told me they do morning workouts. I’ll wake up at 6 a.m. and lift weights,” Jones said. “I want to get in the gym and work out. College is going to be a great experience for me.”

Jones is already putting in hours on the hardwood and in the weight room that would compare to the schedule of a college athlete. The Clever senior standout is renowned for her work ethic that has led the 5-foot-5 mighty mite to numerous honors and the Lady Jays’ 1,000-point club.

“In a regular week, I'd say I'm in the gym about 10 hours — that’s not including practice,” Jones said. “I'm trying to work on being faster and getting my ball-handling under control and working on my mid-range, pull-up jumper and deeper 3s. I also know I have to get stronger.”

Clever coach Clark Satterlee confirms Jones' schedule. Jones has her own key to one of the school district’s gyms.

“She literally goes to the gym on her own even on days we practice,” Satterlee said. “There's not a lot of kids who will do that. She does a bunch of stuff on her own.”

Jones’ passion for hoops was triggered at a young age, while watching her uncle, Skylar Frazier, play for College of the Ozarks 10 years ago.

“That's where my love for basketball started, going to his games,” she said.

It was a natural fit when Preston Frazier stepped in as Jones’ father.

“My Dad stepped into my life when I was young. He's the only father-figure I've ever known,” Jones said. “He opened my eyes to basketball, and my Dad's side of the family is very basketball-oriented.”

Jones' grandfather, Darrell Gaines, retired as a basketball coach at Pershing Middle School in Springfield. He, too, has had a great influence on her love for basketball.

“He's a huge inspiration to me,” Jones said. “I think he loves the game more than any of us.”

Taking into account the endless hours she has spent dribbling and shooting, Jones looks back with pride that she’s fulfilled her potential to this point in her career. Her mindset all along was to take advantage of any opportunities presented to her.

“When I noticed I had a talent for (basketball) I was like, 'Okay, if I'm going to be good at something, I'm going to put in the work,’” she said. “I’m not a person who wants it handed to me. I want to put in the effort. I want to give 100 percent, and not just for me, but for my teammates and everyone in the stands.”

“Everybody says they want to do this and want all of these accolades. But there are very few kids who will actually work and put in the time,” Satterlee said. “I feel Ireland is going to be successful in whatever she does because she understands the work you have to put in.”

Basketball has brought Jones closer to her family and, at times, provided a respite for all of them while dealing with hardships. Gaines has undergone surgeries recently and Jones’ grandmother, Sandy Shawley, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Stage 4 brain cancer last April.

“She had a huge tumor. But she has fought it and got done with radiation,” Jones said. “She's coming to all my games. The motivation to keep going, with my family dealing with all of this, and seeing her in the stands is amazing. It's so much motivation for me to make everyone proud.”

Jones and her Clever teammates begin Class 3 District 12 play at Lamar on Wednesday as the No. 1 seed. If the seeds hold true, the Lady Jays will meet No. 2 seed Diamond in the District’s championship game.

Obviously, the prospect every game from here on out might be Jones' finale in a Lady Jays uniform serves as great motivation, not to mention stress, as she points out.

The fact there is more work to be done helps Jones cope with such pressure.

“Knowing I'm going to Mission has helped me deal with that emotional stress,” she said. “I’m not done with basketball and it's not done with me.”