Jones begins basketball career

Former US sprinter Marion Jones signs with WNBA's Tulsa Shock.

    Jones was originally on a basketball scholarship before taking up athletics [GALLO/GETTY]

    Former Olympic sprinter Marion Jones signed with WNBA's Tulsa Shock on Wednesday, in a bid to revive her failed athletic career.

    Jones was a star at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, but lost her five Olympic medals for admitting steroid use and served about six months in a Texas prison for lying to federal prosecutors.

    Jones said playing for the Shock was not about her past but instead fulfils her dream of playing basketball against some of the best players in the world.

    "The word redemption is not in my vocabulary,'' Jones said at a news conference, flanked by team president Steve Swetoha and coach Nolan Richardson.

    "I'm a competitor, I want to play against the best in the world, and I know that I will be doing that.''

    College player

    Before Jones became known as the world's fastest woman, she attended the University of North Carolina on a basketball scholarship, where she played point guard and helped lead the Tar Heels to a 92-10 record over three seasons and a national championship in 1994.

    Drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in the third round of 2003 WNBA draft, Jones still ranks fifth on North Carolina's career assist list, third in steals and seventh in blocks.

    "I think when I even started to think about this 10 months ago, I know how much the game has grown from the time that I played,'' Jones said.

    "And that became even more of a challenge for me, because I know that although I know certain things and played a certain way, that it's 10 times faster, that the athletes are 10 times more skilled.''

    Jones is sure to bring some badly needed attention to the WNBA and Shock coach Nolan Richardson said he is confident the 34-year-old former-sprint queen will be able to rediscover her college form.

    "Watching her go through drills, I saw a player who's perfect for our system," said Richardson.

    "The one thing I do know is she can run, and any player on my team who wants to be successful needs to be able to run."

    Bad decisions

    Jones won three golds and two bronzes for the United States in Sydney, where she was the golden girl and smiling face of the Games. But she was sentenced to six months in jail in January 2008 for lying to federal prosecutors about using performance-enhancing drugs.

    "She made some ill-advised decisions in the past, but everyone deserves a second chance to excel at something they love."

    Tulsa Shock boss
    Steve Swetoha

    "She made some ill-advised decisions in the past, but everyone deserves a second chance to excel at something they love," said Shock president Steve Swetoha.

    "The city of Tulsa gave a struggling franchise from Detroit a second chance, and I'm confident it will do the same for Marion."

    Jones will join a team that is a work in progress. All-Stars Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith had agreed to contract extensions, but apparently won't play for Tulsa when the season begins in May.

    Coach Richardson said Nolan has indicated she intends to skip the upcoming season to rest instead of relocating with the team, which moved to Tulsa from Detroit in the offseason. And Smith, a six-time All-Star, has already said she doesn't plan to play in Tulsa and is listed as a free agent by the league. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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