For the first time since she's been at Maryland, sophomore forward Stephanie Jones is showing what she is capable of doing on the basketball court when she has two good knees.
After suffering a torn ACL midway through her senior year at Aberdeen early in 2016 and undergoing surgery, Jones returned to the court as a freshman for the Terps that fall instead of sitting out the season.
Jones, who came off the bench last year while continuing to strengthen her knee, now looks more like the player she was at Aberdeen prior to the injury.
The 6-foot-2 Jones started Maryland's first nine games this season and ranked third in scoring (11.7 points) and second in rebounds (6.4).
"I feel like I'm a lot better than I was last year, maybe not 100 percent of myself, but I'm getting there," Jones said. "It's like a mental game a little bit, especially when rebounding because that's how I got hurt. I just needed to get over it and play basketball. But I'm past that now."
Her older sister, Brionna Jones, also suffered a torn ACL midway through her senior season at Aberdeen. Brionna went on to become one of the country's top players while at Maryland from 2013 until last season. As a senior, Brionna, who now plays with the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, helped her younger sister work through the issues associated with coming back from the injury.
"Just having my sister here, and [because] she went through the same thing … really helped," Stephanie Jones said. "She just told me to be patient and to keep working hard and your time will come."
Mike Jones, Stephanie and Brionna's father, was an assistant coach at Aberdeen when both girls played there. He initially thought Stephanie might be better served by sitting out last season.
"She struggled somewhat early last season because of the knee," he said. "She said she didn't feel normal until this summer. I think she can do a lot better, but for where she was last year to where she is now, there's no comparison."
Stephanie Jones played in 34 of the Terps' 35 games last season, all off the bench, and averaged 4.1 points in 9.1 minutes per contest.
This season has been a different story. Jones recorded her first career double double -- 11 points and 18 rebounds -- during Maryland's season-opening, 91-58 rout of Albany Nov. 10.
Jones also posted 21 points and nine rebounds during a 92-65 victory against Niagara Nov. 16 and scored 24 points and added seven rebounds during a 111-49 rout of Howard Nov. 21.
Last season, Jones never reached double figures on offense.
Maryland head coach Brenda Frese has enjoyed watching Jones develop into a true threat this season.
"She's just showing the consistency factor game in and game out," Frese said. "She just brings a level of toughness. She's just the glue for us."
Part of what makes Jones so valuable is her versatility. Jones played all five positions at Aberdeen but is now working mostly at power forward and center. Frese said Jones can do anything the Terps need.
Amber Milnes coached Jones at Aberdeen and said she's not surprised by how quickly her former player came back from the serious injury.
"Stephanie is that player that will give you 110 percent all the time," Milnes said. "I am not surprised at all that she worked hard during her rehab and continued to put in the work. She comes from a family that knows hard work is what gets you what you want."
Jones may have gained one positive from the experience -- insight into a possible career. The kinesiology major hopes to become a physical therapist, something she became interested in while laboring through her own recovery and rehab.
Now almost two years since the injury, Jones has endured surgery and rehab and evolved into a significant part of the Maryland women's basketball program.
"I think from last year to this year, I am more confident in myself on the court," Jones said. "You have to play hard every day. I feel real confident with myself."
Issue 240: December 2017