Editor's Note: The following feature was provided to Big12Sports.com by Clark Wilson of University of Oklahoma - a participant in the 2010 Big 12 College Communications Clinic, held in conjunction with Big 12 Basketball Media Days.
It's easy to find many decorated players when glancing at the Baylor Lady Bears roster. There's the All-World Brittany Griner who headlines the frontcourt, superstar-in-waiting McDonald's All-American Odyssey Sims, and then there's senior Melissa Jones.
Jones, a two-time captain for the Lady Bears, has been a staple for what head coach Kim Mulkey has preached for her program. Mulkey has recruited a number of superstars that can light up the scoreboards but for Jones it's her unique ability to do things beyond the stat sheet that more often than not get over-looked.
"Melissa Jones is every coaches dream," said Mulkey. "If you could have a team full of Melissa Jones you would win national championships every year."
It's not just the work ethic and the leadership skills that Jones possesses that have made her the basketball player that she is today, it's her versatility and her ability to do a number of different things on the court that make her a tough match-up for opposing teams.
"She plays so hard and she does so many things with her size, she can play any position on the floor for me," said Mulkey. "She is asked to do things on the defensive end that I wish I didn't have to ask her to do because you would like for her to rest, but that's just not her nature."
Rest is one thing that Jones will need from time to time. She had an injury-plagued season in 2009, where she was forced to miss action for 11 straight games. Despite the time she has missed, Jones managed to place herself fourth on Baylor's all-time career free throw percentage list and is only 318 points shy of 1,000. During her sophomore campaign Jones won Sixth Man of the Year awards, recognizing her for the key role she played coming off the bench.
Although the fans and the media often overlook the senior's intangibles, Jones' leadership skills are very much appreciated in the Baylor locker room.
"I don't know what we would do without Melissa Jones," said sophomore All-American Brittany Griner. "She can get along with anybody, she knows all of our personalities, so she does a good job of motivating us and being there for us when we need her the most."
Since arriving at Baylor as a freshman in 2007 Jones has helped lead the Lady Bears to the 2008 Big 12 Conference postseason championship and a Women's Final Four appearance in 2009.
Although she spends most of her efforts on the court trying to win games for the Lady Bears, the game has found a way to help Jones give back to the community, not just in Waco but overseas.
For the past couple of summers Jones along with the Baylor Sports Ministries team has gone to Kenya to help build and support communities that are in need.
"We went with 29 Baylor student-athletes," said Jones. "From every sport like football, baseball, volleyball, you name it."
With the reputation and religious background that the University of Baylor portrays it's able to give student-athletes like Melissa Jones unique opportunities to help others who are in need. To go along with the charity work, all of the athletes were able to coordinate their respective sports with the kids, which made the experience even better for Jones.
"Playing sports was a way that we could share our experiences," Jones said. "And since we all love the game of basketball so much, we were able to praise and worship the same God through that."
Religion has played a large role in Jones' life and basketball career.
"I knew that Baylor was a prominent Christian school, but I have had a good foundation with Christ my whole life, so in the end it wasn't the deciding factor, but it didn't hurt either."
With the impact that Jones and the sports ministries team have made, it has influenced other universities and teams to get involved with their communities and to help out people in need. One in particular, Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly.
"I think it's important for all student-athletes to acknowledge that some people aren't as fortunate as them," said Coach Fennelly. "I tell our players all the time, there's a lot of people that have helped them get where they are, so they need to turn around and help other people and I respect what Melissa Jones and her ministry team has done in trying to provide that type of attitude for college athletes."
It's evident that Jones is able to use her leadership abilities that she possesses off the court and use them with her teammates on the court. With this being her senior year she will get one last go around to put those special qualities to test and help lead the Lady Bears back to the Women's Final Four.