Haley Jones

Haley Jones Strikes Balance on Her Own Time in Debut Pro Year

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2024 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
W.G. Ramirez
Mar 14, 2024

It has been a while since Haley Jones has been able to embrace hobbies away from basketball.

In fact, it has been a while since the Athletes Unlimited Pro Basketball newcomer has been able to enjoy much of anything off the hardwood.

Spending most of the last 10 years dedicated to 12 months of training — be it with AAU or high school ball before starring for Stanford — the only thing the 6-foot-1 guard has been consumed by has been basketball.

“When you’re in college, your days are so scheduled out for you, it’s very rigid. You lift, practice, you have study hall, you have treatment — your day is so scheduled out,” said Jones, who was drafted sixth overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft after rejecting an option for an extra season of eligibility after Stanford was shockingly eliminated in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March.

Now, after appearing in all 40 games for the Atlanta Dream last summer and averaging 14.6 minutes per game while turning in 3.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest as a reserve, she was able to enjoy her first true offseason.

Whether it’s been taking long walks, educating herself on a holistic outlook to life thanks to the influence of Dream teammate Monique Billings, entrenching herself into fitness and yoga, meal-prepping for a healthier lifestyle or finally losing herself in books that have nothing to do with college — Jones is living her best life.

And everything has been on her time.

“Stuff like that has been really fun, I think it’s been great,” said Jones, who led Stanford to the national championship in 2021 and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. “Also, just to take a little bit of a break. College is year-round. So, getting to have my first little bit of a break to kind of relax, have a bit of a reset has been nice.”

Her training has not lacked, as she’s continued to work with Atlanta’s staff both on the court and in the weight room, not to mention doing community service for the Dream. But again, on her time.

She has also been building a bigger following with her podcast and even had her new teammate and AU alum Jordin Canada on as a guest.

“I think she has a great personality, she seems like a lovely girl,” said Canada, who was traded to Atlanta in the offseason. “Our conversation was very fluid; it wasn’t awkward at all. She’s able to hold a conversation and her maturity level is very high for someone of her age. That’s a testament to her and how she was raised and being at Stanford. I’m looking forward to getting to know her a little bit more as a friend and as a teammate and just being able to share my knowledge of what I’ve learned in this league and how I’ve improved and how I could potentially help her going into her second year.”

Before that, though, Jones continues the process of preparing for her sophomore campaign by playing alongside some of the best players in the WNBA, with the second half of the AU season set to tip off Thursday.

“I feel like I expanded my skill set a lot in the offseason and now I have to incorporate that into a live game setting,” said Jones, who sits 27th on the leaderboard with 1,442 points heading into Week Three at Athletes Unlimited. “I think AU, with the competition level here, it’s going to push me.”

She said another differential from her years at Stanford has been enjoying some of the many activities planned away from the court that have allowed her to make new friends from around the W, players she may not have met otherwise. It is one thing to have bonded with some of her Stanford teammates during her time in Palo Alto, but she did not bond with players around the soon-to-be disbanded Pac-12 Conference.

At Athletes Unlimited, she has gotten the chance to bond with 39 women and isn’t taking her newfound relationships for granted.

“I can hear about whatever people are doing, just learning more about them off the court, and I think that’s really interesting,” Jones said.

That said, Athletes Unlimited has given Jones a chance to reconnect with her former college teammate Lexie Hull, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

The two, who both starred on the championship squad and were teammates during Week One of the AU season, have been reminiscing about good times, playing pickleball, and gotten back to The Bachelor watch parties on Monday nights.

“I feel like I’ve talked to so many people, (but) I think what’s been really fun these first few weeks is getting to hang out with Lexie like we used to,” Jones said. “We haven’t seen each other very much. You go from spending four years with somebody in such a tight-knit community, and then we were separated and now (I get to) be around her again.”

The past two weeks, eight-year WNBA veteran Allisha Gray has drafted Jones to her squad, and beams with pride when talking about her Dream teammate.

“I love Haley, she’s such a nice and sweet person,” Gray said. “She’s a great leader and she’s also a big point guard, hence, why I wanted her on my team as well. I think her playing at Athletes Unlimited will help her a lot. It will allow her to try different positions and also test out different parts of her game. She can learn more stuff about herself as well, and I’m looking forward to her making her jump from her rookie season to her second year in the W.”

Canada added that the combination of Jones’ basketball IQ and versatility is something she is looking forward to being around in Atlanta.

“She was able to grasp the league very quickly and adjust very well,” Canada said. “Just her being able to have that ability to (be versatile) really does help a team, especially for Atlanta, her being able to come and play the one and control the offense but also being more of a scorer, being more of a rebounder, and being able to guard four players in this league.

“Because this league is very fast and very quick. You have a lot of post players who are very mobile now, and so the fact that she can do that, it really does bring an advantage to Atlanta to the team.”

And for Jones, with a chance to play on a roster drenched with talent, she is elated with how much promise there is in just her second season as a pro.

“I’m really excited, I love being in Atlanta,” Jones said. “I love playing for (coach) Tanisha (Wright) and the rest of the staff. I think that they’re really special. And I think that last year doing what we did … It left us really wanting more and moving into this next season.

“I think that we already kind of created a great foundation with the run we had last year. And then to have those offseason pickups like Jordin Canada, Tina Charles, Ariel Powers, like those are big names … bringing those people in who are not only extremely talented on the court, but just seem like great pieces to add to a team. I’m really excited to play with them.”


W.G. Ramirez is a 36-year veteran sports reporter in Southern Nevada, serving as a correspondent for Athletes Unlimited. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez

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