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North Babylon's Brianna Jones knows the sky's the limit

North Babylon guard Brianna Jones drives against Brentwood

North Babylon guard Brianna Jones drives against Brentwood point guard Kanndra Rhoden in a Class AA semifinal playoff basketball game on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Printed across the front of Brianna Jones' T-shirt were the words "Defy Expectations."

As talented as the North Babylon guard is, that could be hard to do. Expectations for her this season are rather high.

"I expect her to do a lot," North Babylon coach Debbie Brajevich said. "I would say 30 points and 20 rebounds a game. And I know that sounds crazy, but it's not. She's capable of that. More than capable of that."

Jones rolled up one of the sleeves on her shirt and flexed, showing off some newly formed cuts in her triceps. Knowing a lot would be expected of her (30 points, 20 rebounds!), Jones dedicated her offseason to conditioning. She lifted weights with a trainer every other day and ran regularly to build her endurance.

So the player who averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds last season, who rose above defenders and drained pull-up mid-range jumpers, who hit 37 percent from three-point land, who sliced through traffic to create her own shot . . . well, now she has even more strength and stamina.

"I look back and I don't even know how I was playing before," Jones said. "It's possible to feel inferior on the court when everyone else is running up and down and you're . . . "

She pauses and gasps for air.

Out of breath? Inferior on the court? Considering the success she has had, those are scary thoughts for whoever has the unenviable task of guarding her this season.

She already has been first-team All-Long Island, she already is ranked by ESPN as the ninth best guard in the country, she already has earned a scholarship to the University of Louisville. And yet she enters the season in even better shape, expecting even more of herself.

Jones -- a natural lefty who shoots righty -- wants to further develop her right hand off the dribble. She wants to expand her range on her three-point shot. She wants to shoot 50 percent for the season.

She will be asked to score in a variety of ways beyond her patented pull-up jumper: by attacking the basket, converting putbacks and leaking out for easy buckets in transition to avoid double-teams in the half-court set.

"Frankly, even if all five players are in front of her and she is 22 feet from the basket, she can pull up and score," Brajevich said. "Nobody else can do that."

Expectations for the Bulldogs aren't quite as high as they were last season, thanks to the departure of two Division I talents in Makeda Nicholas and Lauren Williams. Jones and Sabrina Powell are the only returning starters from last season's team, which fell to Sachem East in the county final.

"I have to take on a lot more responsibilities, not just offensively but defensively," Jones said. "It's not like last year where I could take a few plays off because I had Makeda and Lauren as a crutch. I have to be on every single play."

Told of her coach's lofty 30-point, 20-rebound expectations, Jones laughed.

"Thanks, Coach!" she screamed across the gym. "I'm sure it's doable if I do all the things I need to do. I've accepted that role and that's why I've been working so hard on getting conditioned. Those are some high expectations."

It's time to defy them.


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