Naperville Central’s Trinity Jones felt typical jitters before her first high school game.
She wasn’t playing for the freshman team, after all. Not this child.
“I was definitely nervous coming to Central, especially playing varsity,” said Jones. “I was like, ‘I don’t know if girls are going to like me.'” I don’t know if they will accept me.
“But they made me feel really welcome, and they made me feel as if I was part of their family. So once you get that click, you’re good to go.”
Jones is a good place and it definitely goes places. The 6-foot-1 guard scored 18 points in her debut, a 53-45 loss to Glenbard West on November 15.
Jones followed that up by leading all players with 19 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks as the RedHawks edged past Homewood-Flossmoor 56-41 on opening night of the Naperville Central Tip-Off Tournament on Friday.
The performance impressed her teammates, her opponents, and the crowd that included WNBA superstar Candace ParkerSarah’s mother, whose presence was appropriate. Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum described Jones as the second-best player, behind Parker, who he coached in his 34-year career.
“It’s really a special talent,” said Nussbaum. “For the most part, her teammates are like, ‘Wow, she really makes us better,’ to state the obvious.
“It was good. We are really happy to have her here.”
Jones has already received offers from several Division I programs, including Maryland, Marquette, and Mississippi. I’ve heard all about the comparisons to Parker.
“I get ‘Oh, she’s the next Candace Parker’ all the time,” Jones said. “But I really want to make a name for myself, and that’s all that matters.”
Jones already does. Its reputation preceded it to Naperville Central.
“I was so excited to know it was coming,” said ranger Ella Burke. “To have an agile player like Trinity is vital to our starting quintet.”
Burke, a co-captain, played a vital early role in helping Jones adapt.
“She was a little nervous in her first game,” Burke said. “But I understood because I was nervous for my first match, even though I wasn’t in the same place as you.
“I talked to her and basically told her that she’s really good and that everyone trusts her, and that she’s got this.”
Jones already has a lot of raw skills. She can shoot, run on the ground, play defense and is comfortable in multiple positions, though this is her favourite.
“The Ranger is the best,” Jones said. “But sometimes if I have to play the post, I’ll go down there and do what I have to do to take the ‘W’ for my team.”
Jones may have to play inside sometimes because the Redhawks (1-2) don’t have much height. But it poses the problem of matching competitors, as does team sports. Burke (Cincinnati) and senior guards Megan Norcutt (Northwestern) are Division I football recruits and a sophomore guard Callie Tomeltywho scored 18 points on Friday, is likely to be.
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While Jones will inevitably experience some growing pains and inconsistency, she’s determined to enjoy every minute of it.
“I love basketball,” she said. “If you love sports so much, you’ll go after it and play really well. I think my work pays off. I just have to keep going.”
Homewood-Flossmore coach Tony Smith has mentored some of the best players out of the Chicago area and said Jones compares favorably.
“I’m blessed to have great players like Morgan Tucks, Candace Parkers, Lindsay Wisdoms and Ariel Massengales coming from this area,” said Smith. “Trinity is going to be one of those. She’s going to be special. I’ve seen she can picture it with a really high IQ.”
Trained Smith Talk and Massengale. He’ll have to train against Jones.
“It’s next,” said Smith. “I hope Nussbaum will enjoy this.”
Matt Le Crane is a freelance reporter for The Naperville Sun.