Her Story: Connecticut's Asjha Jones
The WNBA is dedicated to raising funds and awareness of breast cancer during the week of August 3rd to August 10th. Throughout the week, players around the league will share stories of how the disease has affected them and those closest to them in a feature known as "Her Story."
What does the term resilience really mean?
Does it have to do with bouncing back from adversity? No doubt. How about staying positive when it seems like everything is going against you? Absolutely. But true resilience goes much deeper than that.
It’s not just bouncing back from unfortunate happenings in life; it’s doing so with honor and integrity. It’s not just having a positive attitude; it’s about maintaining optimism when it seems hope is lost.
For Asjha Jones of the Connecticut Sun, resilience is simply in her nature. The nine-year pro has been a staple of consistency during her time in the league and the same mindset has been true off the court. In fact, the vicious nature of cancer has, unfortunately, been a part of her life since early childhood.
“It seems like cancer keeps popping up everywhere,” Jones said. “It’s kind of always been there. My grandmother passed away when I was really young, maybe three or four, my father’s significant other passed away, and one of my mom’s really good friends is battling currently.”
It would be easy for Jones to adopt a woe-is-me attitude and go through life with her head down. Instead, she’s one of the most forward-thinking and affirmative people you’ll ever meet. In fact, her family has relied heavily on that optimism in times of worry and heartache.
“Seeing my grandmother go through so much, when I was young, really impacted me a lot,” Jones remembers. “I remember it all happening - her going through the chemo and the radiation. It was tough on everybody. We have a really big family with 10 children so it was crucial to stay together. It was still tough for me to really comprehend and understand. I remember being extremely sad seeing her towards the end.”
It’s impossible for these types of occurrences not to have a noticeable impact on the way you live your life, either consciously or subconsciously. For Jones, the adversity early on affected her not just as a person, but as a basketball player as well.
On the court, Jones has always played with a profound appreciation of the game of basketball. She’s the type of person to lead by example and that was certainly evident during her time at UConn as she led the team to two National Championships. In fact, she didn’t miss a single game from the start of her sophomore year to the end of her senior season. Additionally, in the WNBA, she’s played in over 30 games in seven of her previous eight years. Her love of the game extends beyond the superficial.
Off the court, especially with her family’s history, Jones has made it a priority to maintain healthy habits. Whether it’s staying active or just eating the right foods, Jones continues to live by what she preaches. There isn’t a day that goes by that Jones isn’t humbled by the blessings she has received.
“I try to live as healthy as possible,” Jones says. “Being an athlete, it helps that we are constantly reminded of it. I try to stay in touch with the latest news and what’s happening with my family and get updated on what they’re doing too. Plus, down the road, I try not to be selfish so no one has to worry about me later on in life. We also have a history of diabetes so I just want to make sure that I set a good example for all my family.”
Not surprisingly, Jones is an avid supporter of making annual visits to the doctor for routine exams.
“I can’t stress it enough,” Jones said. “People need to see the doctor to get check-ups. I know it’s tough because people don’t really like going to the doctor but it’s so important to monitor your health.”
And if something ever does show itself and you’re faced with a long road ahead of you, the importance of a solid support system is vital. Jones and the struggles she and her family have faced is the perfect testament to this.
“Everyone needs to be supportive,” Jones said. “There are going to be good days and bad days but if someone is there to pick them up it makes things so much better. Most people are going to go through a struggle at some point in their lives and it’s great if people can just support each other in any way possible. The most important part is just to be encouraging.”
“It makes all the difference in the world.”
Ben York is currently a writer for SLAM Magazine and has covered both the NBA and WNBA for over four years.
You can follow him on Twitter @bjyork