San Antonio – The pandemic has not made it easy for 22-year-old and former Reagan girls’ basketball standout, Mailee Jones, to train with her teammates on the Vietnamese Women’s National Basketball Team. However, with tournament games cancelled and restrictions with crossing the border due to Covid-19, Jones has been able to take advantage of the time away by ramping up her individual training and teaching the game to the next generation of athletes.
Jones, who has been home from Vietnam since February, began volunteering at her father’s youth basketball camp, Shooting for Success, in March.
“I’ve been here the entire time – 7:30am helping the kids out, making sure they’re not only learning basketball skills, but also life skills,” Jones said. “Like our biggest thing is leadership, commitment, making sure these little kids learn it at a very young age. I think it’s a great way to do it through basketball.”
But working with the camp participants isn’t the only daily commitment Jones has: the 2016 Reagan graduate and former First Team All-District selection trains approximately five hours a day to maintain her basketball skillset. Jones’ father and former professional overseas, David, said that his daughter’s persistent work ethic surprised even him.
“I’m here at night when I’m training,” said David. “When we get done at 10pm, she’s asking, ‘Okay dad can we train?’ and it’s 11pm. Okay we got to get in our hour and a half and so her willingness and her drive to be the best is really surprising.”
Jones spent her freshman year at Youngstown State for the 2016-17 season before transferring to Chicago State. Jones, whose mother Diane is half-Vietnamese, left the NCAA to join the Vietnamese national team in 2019 – becoming the first Vietnamese-American to make the squad. She is hoping to build the team’s basketball competencies and help the team finish well in the 2021 Southeast Asian Games.
“I think they play really well as a team already, but to mix that with skillset and being a leader – a positive leader at that – to show them, ‘Okay, this is how we need to do it, this is how intense we have to be’ because for the longest, we’ve got to make sure that we have to reach our goal and our goal is top five in Asia, top three in Asia,” Jones said.
Jones plans on returning to Vietnam at the end of September or beginning of October temporarily before returning for a prolonged period in December or January to begin preparing for international competition.