Originally written by Chris Mortley for SOAR Magazine, republished with full permission.
At just 24-years-old, Georgia Jones’ experience within the game of basketball is quite incredible.
The Loughborough Riders Women point guard arrived in Leicestershire last summer, having previously played for Manchester Mystics and Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Returning to England briefly, Georgia would go on to enjoy a half-season spell playing for Romania’s Cluj-Napoca, commencing her professional career.
And, whilst the Manchester-born guard’s CV looks impressive enough, it’s the achievements representing Great Britain that stand out above all others. Jones has represented Great Britain at every age group available since the nation’s basketball set-up was established the best part of a decade ago, and was handed a first-ever senior cap at the age of 16.
Georgia is seemingly happy in Loughborough, where she currently combines playing for the Leicester Riders and Loughborough Students’ women sides alongside studying for a Masters in Sports Management at Loughborough University.
“I knew quite a few people before I came down here, so that made the transition much easier,” Jones told Soar Magazine. “As far as the season is concerned, we’ve been a little up and down but we’re definitely heading in the right direction. I’m enjoying my basketball in Leicester.”
Whilst last season’s all-conquering men’s team stole headlines for their three-trophy haul, the Riders women’s team has continued to progress massively in recent years.
Under head coach Matthew Harber, Loughborough Student Riders have become recognised as a club that provides players with a platform to gain opportunities in the United States, whilst allowing experienced players the ability to enhance their talent; something that Georgia testifies to.
“Before I joined Leicester, I had played under Matt Harber in a 3-on-3 tournament in Athens and got to know him whilst I was playing out there,” she explained. “I really liked him as a coach and after speaking to him, we decided on a few things that I needed to improve on.
“The main things involved playing as a point guard and being a leader on the court. One of the reasons that I came here was that I knew we would both share a similar focus. We’re still working on a few things, but I’m happy with how I’m progressing.”
Basketball is very much a ‘Jones’ family sport. In addition to Georgia playing for Great Britain and Loughborough Student Riders, her father, Jeff, is head coach of Riders’ BBL rivals Manchester Giants, whilst brothers James and Callum play in Manchester under their father. As a result, it was destined that Georgia, the youngest of the Jones clan, would follow in their footsteps, despite flirting with the idea of other sports.
“My dad has always coached and my brothers always played, so I would have got left out if I didn’t do it,” she said. “I remember being young and always wanting to be involved, even at times where I was probably too young, so it was inevitable that I was going to end up playing. They continue to help me and it’s good to be able to speak to people who you’re close to that know what they’re talking about.
“It was always going to be basketball,” Georgia added. “There were other sports, but nothing as serious as basketball which was always prioritised. I played netball, because everybody wanted me to play netball, but after you play basketball it doesn’t really compare!”
With over 40 caps to her name representing Great Britain, Jones looks optimistically to the future. Having achieved so much with the national side, UK Sport’s decision to cut funding for the game altogether ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio is one that has left shockwaves among the basketball community.
“I was very lucky to have the opportunity to play for Team GB at such a young age,” said Georgia, reviewing her Great Britain career to date. “It’s something that I am very proud of. To play at the highest level is something that every athlete aims for. Not a lot of people would have given a 16-year-old that chance.
Unfortunately, injury led to Georgia missing a sizable period of playing time for Great Britain. Although she managed to make a comeback in 2012, it was too late for Jones to be considered for the Team GB roster for the London Games, making the desire to feature at the 2016 games in Rio all the more strong.
“After my freshman year at college, I was diagnosed with a cyst on my shin. Initially, they thought that it was shin splints, but I had to have the cyst lasered off and that led to a stress fracture. What could have been a minor injury turned into one that would ensure I was out for the entire season. I missed most of my second year in college.
“I wasn’t ready to compete by the summer, so I did some rehab that year and played in the World Uni Games the following summer in China. It was only then that I felt I was back 100%, but by then I had run out of time to put myself in contention to play for Great Britain in the 2012 Games. However, I was lucky enough to be selected to play for Great Britain in last summer’s EuroBasket and I’m grateful for that. Playing at EuroBasket was a huge highlight, because I could have gone the complete opposite way (and not have been able to play). I’m still young and I’m taking every opportunity that I can. I am happy to be able to do that.
“It (UK Sport’s decision to cut basketball funding) was really disappointing to hear,” added Georgia of the recent announcement. “In many ways, I just think that it’s a bit unfair. It’s upsetting for basketball players of the future. I’ve been involved with the Great Britain programme from its first year and I have seen it progress with the addition of other age groups, which have progressed themselves. It appears those players and their progress wasn’t given a second thought or even acknowledged.
“Hopefully, the appeals will prove to be successful. Whilst the basketball community is a small one, it’s one that rallies together when things like this happen – and this isn’t the first time that we’ve suffered set-backs.
“I’m looking ahead to the summer and waiting to see what that has in store. Obviously, I would like to make the GB squad again for this summer’s qualifiers. After that, I hope we get the funding back! I want to go to Rio; the ultimate goal is to go to the next Olympics.”
To find out more about Leicester Riders, visit www.leicesterriders.co.uk
Jus tryna let the world know the UK can hoop a little bit too! Got a story? Contact me on [email protected]!