GCCC's Jones, Gross sign NCAA letters
By ADAM HOLT
After a highly successful career at Garden City Community College, it wasn't a matter of if Tamara Jones would sign to play Division I basketball, it was just when and where.
Jones tweeted last Thursday she was going to sign with the University of Southern Mississippi, and made it official Tuesday, signing her letter of intent along with teammate Breanna Gross, who signed with Division-II Slippery Rock (Pa.) University.
For Jones, who isn't a fan of the recruiting process, it was good to have everything finalized.
"I was very relieved," she said. "I feel so much better that I don't have to stress about that."
Former Lady Broncbusters head coach Alaura Sharp announced two weeks ago she was leaving to take an assistant coaching job at Southern Miss, but said Jones was a good match even before she decided to move.
"I think it was a good fit," Sharp said. "She went on her visit before I knew I was going to be at Southern Miss. She already was interested and liked Coach (Joye) McNellis. It was just a really good fit, just in comparison to some of the other places she went to visit."
"I just talked with my family, and we thought it would be the best decision for me," Jones said.
Of course, when Sharp joined the Golden Eagles, it didn't hurt, either.
"When I came on board, it made her mom feel really comfortable, made her mom feel really good that she knew she'd have someone in her corner," Sharp said.
As simple as the path to NCAA ball was for Garden City's all-time leading scorer, things weren't as clear-cut for Gross.
The Clinton, Md., native started as a freshman in the 2010-11 season, and was a backup in '11-12 before taking a red-shirt to stay on with the program this past season. Gross got her academics tidied up and was an important part of the scout team and game preparation.
"I think it shows a lot of character," Sharp said. "I know how excited her dad was when I called him last spring, and he was very disappointed with where she was at academically. When we were trying to find places for her to go, she just didn't have a lot of options. She still had some credits that we needed here.
"When I told him we'd bring her back and put her on scholarship, I could hear him almost in tears, he was so grateful to Garden City and our program, because we stayed to our word, and we'll get her through and we'll get her out."
Gross put in all the same work as the rest of the Busters this season, without getting to actually see the court. But she said she was able to make the best of it.
"It was real challenging, because I wasn't able to play basketball," Gross said. "But it was real rewarding, because now I'm going to be graduating with my degree, and I bettered my grades. I grew up a little bit, I matured at the same time. And I got to see what it was like without having to put everything together — without playing. So it was a real eye-opener, but it was a good feeling."
Jones and Gross are the fourth and fifth players from the 2012-13 team to sign, joining Deni Jacobs (Metro State), Mikell Chinn (Kent State) and Tahlia Pope (Texas-Arlington).