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Iowa hoops recruit Ava Jones, family celebrate life of late father

Nickerson’s Ava Jones hugs her father, Trey Jones, after winning the Class 4A girls high jump at the Kansas state high school track and field championships on May 28, 2021 in Wichita. (Billy Watson/The Hutchinson News via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Family, friends and loved ones gathered Saturday morning at Hutch First Nazarene Church in Hutchinson, Kan. to pay tribute to Trey Jones and offer words of encouragement to his daughter, Ava Jones, and her family.

More than two months removed from a crash in Louisville, Ky. that cost him his life, Trey Jones was memorialized during a service that included special tributes from friends and loved ones to comfort the family as they said goodbye. He was 42 years old.

On July 5, the family was in Louisville for Ava Jones’ AAU basketball tournament when police say a driver hit them with his car while under the influence of hydrocodone. Trey Jones died days later in a Kentucky hospital, and the three other family members involved in the accident survived. Creek Jones (Trey’s youngest son) suffered a few minor cuts and scrapes but was mostly fine, while Amy Jones (Trey’s wife) and Ava Jones spent weeks recovering at Frazier Rehabilitation Institute in Louisville before returning to their home in Nickerson, Kan. on Aug. 18.

Ava Jones is a top 100 recruit in the Class of 2023, according to ESPN, and is committed to the University of Iowa. Previously committed to Arizona State, she reopened her recruitment after a coaching change within the Sun Devils program. The family has confirmed that Iowa will honor Jones’ scholarship regardless of the circumstances.

A 6-foot-2 wing, Jones is the reigning Class 3A girls player of the year in Kansas. She is coming off a 2021-22 campaign in which she averaged 20.8 points and 15.4 rebounds per game at Nickerson, leading the Panthers to a fourth-place finish in 3A. Jones was also named the most valuable player in the Central Kansas League at the end of the season.

Outside of basketball,  Jones has also made a name for herself on the volleyball court and on the track. She was among the leaders in kills for the Nickerson volleyball team last season, and she won the 4A girls high jump two years ago as a sophomore. Jones qualified for four events at the state track meet last year, placing in the top three in two events.

As head coach of Nickerson’s track and field team, Trey Jones was remembered fondly during his memorial service for the kindness he showed to the players he coached.

“Trey is willing to jump in and do anything for anybody and had a desire to make us all better,” Nickerson High School Principal Rick Blosser said. “He loved teaching, he loved coaching and he loved the Nickerson Panthers. Rest in peace Coacher.”

In an interview last month with KAKE News, Amy Jones said the realization of being back home without her husband would likely set in after the service. She also thanked Kansans and other people across the country for the support her family had received.

Those sentiments of gratitude were echoed during the service on behalf of the family, with church leadership acknowledging first responders, law enforcement, doctors, nurses, physical therapists and many others who have made a difference in aiding the recovery of the Jones family.

“Trey was doing what he loved when he died,” Hutch First Lead Pastor Kent Pederson said. “Traveling with his family and watching one of his kids compete.”

Brad Fox, who was close friends with Trey Jones, said he was nearly moved to tears when thinking about the impact he left on his life, and Fox was sympathetic to the family during their time of grief.

“We will cherish every adventure we had with Trey,” Fox said, “and look forward to moments still to come with Amy, Creek, Hunter and Ava.”

Trey Jones’ celebration of life included a number of personal memories, and it touched on a number of achievements throughout his personal life.

All speakers were in agreement that his family was his greatest achievement.

“That was always one of Trey’s greatest joys was seeing his children succeed more than he did,” said Crag Honas, Trey’s brother-in-law.

Trent Singer is the High School Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @trentsinger.

Portland Thorns reassign head coach after winless NWSL start

Head coach Mike Norris of Portland Thorns FC watches practice before a 2023 match against Orlando Pride
Mike Norris' tenure as Thorns head coach has come to an end. (Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images)

The Portland Thorns are looking for a new head coach after a winless start to the NWSL season. 

The organization has reassigned head coach Mike Norris to a newly created technical director position. Assistant coach Rob Gale is set to take over as interim head coach while the club conducts a "global search" for its next head coach. 

Norris began his time at the club as an assistant coach before taking the reigns after former head coach Rhian Wilkinson abruptly resigned in 2022. Under Norris, the Thorns finished second in 2023's regular season standings, but suffered three losses in their last five games in a spell that saw them knocked out of the running for the NWSL Shield. They went on to lose their first playoff game in postseason play. 

At the start of the 2024 season, the Thorns went winless through four games for the first time in club history. 

"The results have not gone our way, and in a head coach position, the results do matter," Thorns GM Karina LeBlanc told The Athletic's Meg Linehan shortly after the Tuesday afternoon announcement. “But the results that we have, you can’t just pinpoint it on one position.”

Norris' reassignment marks the first major personnel decision made under the club’s new ownership. RAJ Sports' Lisa Bhathal Merage and Alex Bhathal, who also own the NBA's Sacramento Kings, bought the club in January from Merritt Paulson, who sold the Thorns amidst the fallout stemming from reports of misconduct within the NWSL.

Both the Bhathal family and the Thorns front office have been looking to make changes, and establishing a technical director topped the list. According to LeBlanc, Norris has what it takes to assume the position. 

"Where can we grow? Where are the gaps? How do we move forward with being the standard that people are used to with the Thorns?" LeBlanc continued. "One of [Norris’] strengths is to analyze and process, then come down to communicate what needs to happen."

Despite the dismal start, a quick turnaround could certainly be in the cards for Portland. The club currently leads the league in shots and shots on goal, as does star forward and USWNT standout Sophia Smith

"These changes will help us maximize our strengths as we continuously pursue championship-level success," LeBlanc said, voicing full support for the staffing shakeup.

Serena Williams is ‘super interested’ in owning a WNBA team

Serena Williams speaks on stage during keynote conversation at 2019 conference in San Jose, California
The tennis icon is all in on women's sports — and the WNBA is right on her heels. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/WireImage via Getty Images)

Could Serena Williams co-own a WNBA team in the near future? 

Speaking with CNN on Monday, Williams expressed her interest in that potential — as well as the mounting enthusiasm for women’s sports around the world. 

"I think women’s sport is having a moment that it should have always had," Williams said. "I feel like tennis has had its moment. It’s international, and it’s huge, and it’s always gonna be there.

"Now it’s time to lift up other sports — women’s soccer, women’s basketball — there’s so many other sports that women do so great, let’s put it on that platform. Women’s basketball is getting there, and it’s arrived."

When asked if she had any interest in adding a WNBA team to her roster of ownership stakes, the tennis great welcomed the idea. "I absolutely would be," Williams said. "With the right market, I would definitely be super interested in that."

"There is no risk — women’s sport is exciting," Williams added, citing the 2024 NCAA women's tournament's record-breaking viewership as evidence. "People are realizing that it is exciting to watch, so it's an overly safe bet."

Williams may not need to wait long to act on that bet. On Monday, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that she is "pretty confident" the league will expand to 16 teams — up from its current 12 — by 2028. 

The goal, she said, is to reach 14 by 2026. Oakland's Golden State is already on track to launch the league's 13th team in 2025. The move will mark the WNBA's first new franchise since the Atlanta Dream debuted in 2008.

"It's complex because you need the arena and practice facility and player housing and all the things," Engelbert said at a press conference before Monday's WNBA draft. "You need committed long-term ownership groups, and so the nice thing is we're getting a lot of calls."

Engelbert went on to name a few of the cities behind those calls, saying that the league continues to engage in discussions with Philadelphia, Toronto, Portland, Denver, and Nashville, as well as South Florida.

"These can either take a very long time to negotiate or it can happen pretty quickly if you find the right ownership group with the right arena situation," Engelbert added.

The Commissioner's 16 team goal is not only good news for WNBA fans, it's great news for current and future WNBA players. At 12 teams with just 12 roster spots each, the league is held to a total of 144 players for any given season. An abundance of fresh talent coming up through the NCAA ranks has put pressure on the organization to make room for more worthy competitors, and four additional teams might be just the ticket.

Hellen Obiri claims back-to-back Boston Marathon wins

Hellen Obiri, winner of the women's division of the Boston Marathon, poses with the Boston Marathon trophy
Hellen Obiri, winner of the 2024 Boston Marathon's women's division, poses with her trophy. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Kenyan runner Hellen Obiri won the 128th Boston Marathon on Monday, becoming the first woman to claim back-to-back titles since 2005.

She clocked a total time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 37 seconds in a women's division that race organizers described as "historically fast."

"Defending the title was not easy," Obiri said. "Since Boston started, it's only six women [that have repeated]. If you want to be one of them, you have to work extra hard. And I'm so happy because I'm now one of them — I'm now in the history books."

A two-time Olympic silver medalist and two-time 5000m world champion, Obiri is a clear favorite in this summer’s Paris Olympics.

“Last year I was pretty familiar to the marathon, but this year my training was perfect — we trusted everything we were doing,” Obiri said. “When we won last year, of course I was saying I’m going to win this one. Winning is like love. It’s something precious to me.”

Though, she wasn’t without a challenge. Fellow Kenyan Sharon Lokedi finished a mere eight seconds behind Obiri. Edna Kiplagat, who won the 2017 Boston Marathon, completed the podium sweep for Kenya with a third place finish.

Emma Bates, the race's top American finisher, came in 12th.

Obiri wasn't alone in making Boston Marathon history this year. The repeat champ walked away with $150,000 in total prize money allocated from a purse that topped $1 million for the first time ever. 

College rivals Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso drafted to the Chicago Sky

Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso competing at the NCAA SEC Conference Tournament Championship
Once rivals, Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso are now teammates. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Sky made a splash in Monday night’s WNBA draft, taking Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese in the first round. 

South Carolina’s Cardoso, who was the 2024 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, went third to the Sky. The day before, the team had swapped picks with the Minnesota Lynx to land the No. 7 pick as well, which they used on Reese, the 2023 Final Four MOP.

Now, the two will team up in Chicago after battling each other in both college and high school

"She’s a great player, and I’m a great player. Nobody's going to get no rebounds on us," Cardoso joked afterwards, while Reese expressed excitement about playing under new Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon.

"Being able to be a Black woman and as a head coach, and everything she's done at the NBA level, I just knew everything they were bringing to the table," Reese said of the Sky. "Player development is something that I was looking for and they looked for in me. I'm super excited for this move."

Former NBA star and Chicago Sky co-owner Dwayne Wade welcomed the pair to Chicago.

“The foundation is set,” he wrote.

The Sky have entered re-building mode after winning a WNBA title in 2021. This offseason, they traded franchise cornerstone Kahleah Copper to the Phoenix Mercury for a package that included the No. 3 picked used on Cardoso.

Now, Cardoso and Reese will be looking to jump-start the team's return to contention.

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