By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Sharese Jones was born to play basketball.
“My parents have supported me since Day One, and I started playing basketball when I was in kindergarten,” she said. “My dad and sister have both been teaching me the game, just helping me out all the way until now. They’d take me out one-on-one, beat me up, just rough me up to get ready.”
Jones, 5-foot-8 freshman guard, has earned a spot in Missouri Southern’s starting lineup. In her second start last Saturday, she tallied a career-best 17 points — including a go-ahead three-point play with 1:23 remaining — as the Lions nipped visiting Missouri Western 78-76.
“It boosts up our confidence,” said Jones, who was 6-of-11 from the field and 2-of-2 at the foul line. “We’re all excited about this game, but we know there are more games we have to conquer. This was a motivation in that it was tough and we didn’t give up.”
Jones comes from a family rich in basketball talent. Her father, Ron, played for Norm Stewart at Missouri from 1981-84 and was part of the Tigers’ Big Eight Conference championship teams in 1981, 1982 and 1983. He was a team captain his senior year in 1984.
Shakara Jones, Sharese’s older sister, also played at Missouri and scored more than 1,200 points as a four-year starter from 2007 through 2011. She now plays professionally in Greece.
December 2010 was memorable for the Jones family as the sisters both reached 1,000 career points — Shakara as a senior at Mizzou and Sharese as a junior at Francis Howell Central High School. Sharese averaged 16.8 points and 7.4 rebounds as a senior at Francis Howell Central and ended her career with 1,910 points and 841 rebounds.
Shakara was home during Christmas break, and Lions coach Maryann Mitts expected that visit would help Sharese to start the second semester.
“Her family ... having her sister home for the holidays and her dad, I knew they would have some discussions, and Sharese would come out and play more aggressive,” Mitts said.
“Sharese could have probably started Day One for us, but I’m not a big believer in putting all the pressure on my underclassmen. I want them to ease into what they’re doing, but her physicality, her body is what makes her so much better than most freshmen. She can handle the physicality of the league.”
Jones admits she did not think she would break into the starting lineup this season.
“Just by working hard every day in practice and always staying positive,” she explained. “I’m really aggressive going to the hole, taking my man one-on-one.
“This pace compared to high school is way faster. The players are way more stronger. That’s probably the biggest transition.”
The Lions (8-3, 2-1 MIAA) have already matched last season’s victory total. They go for their first true road victory tonight at Lindenwood (3-8, 0-3).
Missouri Southern has lost its first two road games to Truman State 72-62 and Harding 72-53. MSSU is 7-0 at home this season and 1-1 in neutral court games.
“We have to go on the road and get a win,” Mitts said. “That’s the next step. This win (Saturday night) helps us maybe be a little more ready to go on the road and get a win. That’s the next obstacle we need to overcome.”
Lindenwood lost its last start 86-65 at home to Truman State. Julie Hlinak, 5-11 sophomore guard, leads Lindenwood at 11.7 points. Lindenwood averages 64.8 points, eight fewer than its opponents.