Local Sports, Morgantown, Sports

Morgantown’s Alayjah Jones takes move to bench in stride

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No player wants to move from the starting lineup to the bench, but when it happens, coaches want to see one thing — a will to get better.

For Morgantown girls’ basketball coach Jason White, having sophomore guard Alayjah Jones come off the bench after starting the first six games was a move that could benefit the team immediately while helping her in the long run.

“It was really a switch I made in practice that she took quick notice of,” White said. “Our conversations were always about what was best for the team and how she could best help our team be successful. Alayjah is a very unselfish kid who wants nothing more than to see our team be successful.”

However, it wasn’t an easy pill to swallow for Jones, who was admittedly disappointed when the decision was first made. The Mohigans, off to a 2-5 start, needed to try something to gain traction and momentum now that it’s January.

After thinking it over, Jones knew it was an opportunity to prove her worth and figure out how to put all the pieces together to be a major contributor down the stretch.

“I realized that this was an opportunity to show how I play at full potential,” she said. “I had talked with coach (White) about what I needed to do to start. He used the analogy that I was a light bulb, and that sometimes I shined very bright, and sometimes I wasn’t on at all. He’s trying to figure out where to put me so that I can succeed the best.”

While moving to the bench seems like a demotion, White believes there are many positives for Jones she can take away from it. There can be a mental edge that starters don’t have, as well as the opportunity to provide a spark if things don’t go as planned to begin a game.

“I told her that some players just need to see things first on the bench — things such as the way our opponents are attacking our defense, where holes in their defense are and what we should look to attack,” White said.

Jones knows she has to improve her court vision and ability to read opponents’ defensive game plans, but there are a few fundamental aspects she wants to work on, too. Sometimes, Jones believes she plays too fast, which causes mistakes and turnovers.

“Most importantly, I want to play at a speed that I can still beat people but not turn the ball over,” she said.

These adjustments and reconfiguring may have taken a step forward during Friday night’s 61-25 win at John Marshall.

Jones, in here first game off the bench, scored eight points and took what the defense gave her, rather than trying to force the offense. She also rebounded and defended well, according to White.

Even Jones thought her defensive effort helped extend the gap in a 36-point road win.

“I think I read the floor and defenders well on offense and I believe the pressure I put on John Marshall really uplifted the team and myself,” she said.

Jones and the Mohigans will host Wheeling Park on Tuesday for a regional match-up. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.