Big 12 Campus Correspondent
There are not many things that Melissa Jones is unwillingly to try; in fact the only senior on Baylor's No. 1 ranked women's basketball team recently started a bucket list to organize the things she would like to experience one day.
"Whenever I get the chance, I like to do something I haven't done before," Jones said. "The bucket list is full of stuff like hot air balloon rides and going into a shark cage. Obviously, I am waiting until the season is over to do a couple of the things."
The bucket list doesn't contain any basketball-related goals, but don't think that means basketball is not at the top of priority list right now for the 5-foot-11-inch guard from Thornton, Colorado.
"I am just trying to get a win and do whatever I can do to help us get to a National Championship, because that is our goal," Jones said. "I am not going to stop here. I am going to keep going until I can really do something that helps this team."
During her four years at Baylor that is the mindset that has allowed Jones to continue to grow and develop into a vital part of Coach Kim Mulkey's squad.
"Melissa is the glue that holds all of us together," Mulkey said. "I have to play her inside. I have to play her outside. I put her on their best player offensively. I ask her to go in there and rebound. She is just a coach's dream."
Growing up in a household with three older brothers, Jones gained a sort of toughness that only comes from trying to dodge the next onslaught of 'brotherly love.'
"I have had my fair share of getting thrown in the dryer or the meat freezer, typical little sister things," Jones said. "They made it rough growing up, but at the same time we had a lot of fun and they made me who I am today."
After playing a smorgasbord of sports growing, Jones had her sights set on playing both basketball and volleyball at the next level. She was a two-time all-state selection in basketball and earned all-state honors on the volleyball court as well. However, once basketball scholarship offers from Baylor, Oregon, Washington and Colorado State started to roll in during her senior year, she made the decision to focus solely on hoops.
"I was scared, so scared coming here," Jones said. "When I committed to Baylor I didn't know a single person and being 14 hours away from my hometown, it was just a big shock, but once you get in the system and you meet a bunch of people and you see how sincere they are, you develop that friendship."
Jones remembers one specific instance in her first summer at Baylor, after going through her first basketball workout, where she questioned her decision to play for the Bears.
"I mean I am not the type to cry or anything, but I remember just coming home and calling my mom and telling her it was not what I expected and it was too hard, and that maybe I made the wrong choice coming to such a top program."
However, from that point forward Jones has progressed from averaging 5.4 points a game in her freshman campaign to 10.4 points a contest last year as a junior when she was sidelined multiple times including a string of 11 straight games with a stress reactor injury. On the year, the team was 8-4 with Jones in the lineup, including 17-2 with her in the starting lineup and 9-6 with her on the sideline.
This season Jones has taken a back seat in the scoring department to Baylor's highly touted combo of Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims. However, she leads the team in assists and steals and is second to the 6-foot-7-inch Griner in rebounding.
"Melissa is just the one player if you ask every coach in the Big 12, who they would name on our team as the one you better stop first, you think it is Griner, but it is really Melissa Jones, because she does so many of the things you don't teach and that you can't coach," Mulkey said.
One of those things on Jones' bucket list that has to wait until the season is over is snow skiing, which surprisingly the Colorado, native, has never tried.
"I told Coach that the weekend after we are done with basketball, I am not kidding, I am probably going to be going, just because I want to so bad," Jones said.
The hope for Jones and the rest of Baylor fans is that the ski trip will be a celebration of a National Championship recently won.
"That is your dream as a college athlete, you can't do better than winning a national championship, so with that in mind, everyday you want to work at it," Jones said. "Especially with this team it is something you think about on an everyday basis. Not to say we are overlooking anything, by any means, but that is your ultimate goal and whatever we can do to get there we are going to do."