Morgan Jones is used to the spotlight and attention from colleges and coaches.
Even though the senior guard/forward plays at tiny Class A Our Lady of Mercy, the basketball world has known about her since middle school. That’s when she received her first offer … from future Hall of Famer Dawn Staley and South Carolina. Many more have come after that.
So when it came to choosing a school for the next level, Jones and her parents – Andrew and Jaqueline – chose character over cachet. That’s why Jones, who is averaging 30 points and 15 rebounds a game and is one of the favorites for Class A Player of the Year and Miss Georgia Basketball, is headed to Florida State this summer.
“[FSU head coach Sue Semrau] had character and values we thought matched with Morgan’s personality,” Jaqueline Jones said of Semrau, who was selected recently as the first female winner of the Samaritan’s Feet Coach of the Year award. “When she came to Morgan’s school, she went to every one of Morgan’s teachers and introduced herself. She introduced herself to students and talked to them, and asked them what kind of person Morgan is. With her, it wasn’t all about how good of a basketball player Morgan is.”
“I think to [coach Semrau],” Andrew Jones said, “character is important.”
Character also played a big role in keeping Morgan Jones at Our Lady of Mercy. In an era in which high school athletes transfer to other schools frequently, especially basketball players, Jones has remained at Mercy all four years, even though things haven’t always gone smoothly.
The Bobcats had a combined record of 38-15 after Jones’ first two seasons, both of which ended with losses in the first round of the state playoffs. Then last season, OLM dipped to 13-13 and again lost in the first round. But worse than that, Jones didn’t have fun. From Upward Youth Sports to AAU, basketball for Jones had always been fun. Even when the stakes were raised, and games and performances in front of college coaches increased and potential scholarship offers were on the line, basketball was still fun for the self-proclaimed “basketball junkie.”
“I thought about maybe going somewhere else,” Jones said. “But I’m a really loyal person and I didn’t want to leave my team and my teammates. I just didn’t want to leave them.”
But things changed at OLM over the summer. Longtime assistant coach Kevin Walker took over as head coach, and the school got a new head of school, Bill Dooley, a big sports fan. And just like that, the fun was back for Jones – which was great news for her parents. They had already moved their daughter from a school in the Georgia Association of Christian Schools and dreaded the thought of another transfer.
“We moved her to Mercy because we wanted a more rigorous curriculum, because we knew she had the potential to play college basketball,” Jaqueline Jones said. “We wanted her to be prepared academically and we think Mercy has done that.”
The basketball at Mercy has been a bonus, especially this season. With Walker and Dooley in charge, the fun and the wins are up. The Bobcats are 15-2, after an upset loss (65-56) to rival Landmark Christian on Monday, and are ranked No. 4 in the AJC Class A Private Top 10 and No. 5 in the all-important Georgia High School Association/Max Preps Class A Private School Power Ratings (the top 24 teams in the power ratings at the end of region tournament play, advance to the state playoffs). Tonight they will host Strong Rock Christian (5-14) of Locust Grove.
“Everything has been so much better this season,” Jones said. “Not just for basketball, for all of our sports. We have music playing at our games. All of our basketball teams are working together. It’s just been great.”
And now that the fun is back, Jones is looking to close out her storied career at OLM with a bang. Even though Class A Private is loaded with some of the top teams in the state, regardless of classification – teams like No. 1 Holy Innocents, No. 2 Wesleyan and No. 3 St. Francis – Jones said her team is just as capable of going all the way.
“We aren’t going to back down from anybody,” she said. “I feel like we can win state. We just need to execute and be patient. But we’re not scared of anybody. We’re going to compete and not back down from anybody.”