Morgan Jones is just getting started. One of the most electric players to ever hit the court in the county, Our Lady of Mercy alum Jones is quickly shaping herself into a fixture on the Florida State women’s basketball team.
Led by the senior trio of Kiah Gillespie, Nicki Ekhomu, and Nausia Woolfolk, the Seminoles reeled off a 24-8 record and a top 20 ranking nationally before the season ended abruptly.
A sophomore this season, the 6’2” guard carved out a role as a key player, starting 29 of 32 games and finishing fourth on the team in scoring with 5.8 points per game. She continues to flesh out her all-around game, averaging 4.5 rebounds a game, also good for fourth on the team.
As a true freshman, she largely came off the bench until the end of the season where she started nine games in a row.
“Year one was really a learning experience for me. Coming off the bench allowed me to watch and learn from the upperclassmen about what it takes to play at the next level,” Jones said. “The coaches were also very helpful in my development, and they knew how special I could be, so they were, and still are, grooming me to reach my full potential.”
The year-one run culminated in a season-high 15 points in a round two loss to South Carolina in the NCAA tournament.
“I think my ‘welcome to the big time’ moment was when I became a starter towards the end of my freshman year. At that time, I realized my coaches had a growing trust in my potential to understand and execute their expectations.”
Even though her numbers didn’t swell dramatically this season because Gillespie, Ekhomu, and Woolfolk carried such a big portion of the scoring burden, Jones found herself more comfortable in year two. In 19 minutes a game, she averaged 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds a game on efficient 55-percent shooting.
“Year two I was still learning, but I became much more familiar with the pace of the game, and I had one year of experience in the system that FSU runs,” she said. “It definitely started to slow down because now I have a better idea of what’s going on. We played in the ACC and NCAA tournament freshman year, so this year I was much more prepared for serious games like those.”
Season two with the Seminoles did not end as expected. They were primed for a run in the NCAA tournament until sports around the world were wiped out.
“I was honestly devastated when I heard the news. We had just made it to the ACC championship game, and, even though we lost by five points, we were playing our best basketball and had so much fight left in us,” she said. “We were gearing up to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, and we still had goals ahead of us. For it to just end there was a tough pill to swallow.”
It’s been clear for a while that Jones is something special. She dominated the competition at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School in Fayette, earning First Team Class A All-State honors three years in a row.
She saved her best for last. As a senior for the Bobcats, she averaged a ridiculous 29.5 points, 15.3 rebounds, 4.4 blocks, and 3 steals a game, leading her team to the Sweet Sixteen.
Jones’s play caught the eye of college coaches everywhere, and she was ranked as the number 66 recruit in the country by ESPN. Settling on FSU over other top schools, including Mississippi State and North Carolina State, she took her talents to Tallahassee and a powerhouse on the rise under long-time coach Sue Semrau
“I chose FSU because I just had that gut feeling that it was the best fit for me. It wasn’t an easy choice when it came down to my final three schools, but something just felt right,” she said. “It was close to home, and I feel like I have the best chance of reaching my goals and developing myself here. I love the coaching staff and the environment.”
Ramping up to big-time college basketball hasn’t been easy. In Class A, most teams did not have one player who could guard Jones solo or could even handle her with a double-team. In the ACC, she faces teams full of blue-chip talent like her. On top of that, college hoops is essentially a full-time job.
“The biggest adjustments for me were the level of competition and the pace of the game,” she said. “Time management of practice, school, games, and social life were also different.”
With their top three scorers graduating, Jones will be leaned on more heavily next season, and she won’t shy away from the added responsibility.
“That’s the plan. Every year the plan is for me to improve and take on a larger role,” she said. “With them being gone, it’s time for myself and others to step up and fill in for what we are losing.”
The end to this season has the team already hungry to get back to work as soon as they can.
“Next year I will be a junior with an even larger role to play than i did this year. The same goals we had this year still apply to next. Everyone is locked in and focused on what we have to do as individuals and as a team to be successful next season.”