A year ago she was playing for Ohio State, the team she grew up rooting for, the team whose games she went to whenever she could, the team whose jersey she fantasized about one day wearing.
The Buckeyes were 20-4 going to Wednesday night’s game with Minnesota and are ranked No. 13 in the nation.
But Wednesday afternoon, Anyssa Jones stood outside the locker room of the Dayton Flyers, the team she transferred to this season, the team that had just dropped to 4-18 after a 74-65 loss to Saint Louis at UD Arena.
“None,” Jones said shaking her head. “None at all.”
“I’ll take this over my first two years (at Ohio State), I don’t care what our record looks like. I’ll take this a million times over what I had.”
Although she was playing very little at OSU and is a starter now at UD — she led the Flyers with 20 points and 15 rebounds Wednesday — she said “this is not just about playing time. Not at all. It’s the atmosphere here in general.
“The people here — the team, the coaches, everyone —they’re caring individuals. It feels like family. The atmosphere over there just wasn’t for me. To me, it felt more toxic than anything.”
“Here, no matter what else is happening, we’re playing for each other. We try to have each others’ backs.”
That what happened Wednesday in valiant — if not victorious — fashion.
Thanks to a rash of injuries, a COVID outbreak and one player’s personal issue that no longer has them on the bench, the Flyers had only six players in uniform against the Billikens, five scholarship players and freshman walk-on Eleanor Monyek.
Although they fell behind by 10 in the second quarter and trailed most of the game, the Flyers clawed back and with a driving lay-up by Jones with 6:31 left, took a five-point lead, 61-56.
The home team’s surge turned UD Arena into a giddy squeal-fest as over 10,000 young students — the largest School Day crowd ever for a UD game and the reason the total attendance was 11,635 — erupted with cheers and chants, dancing and high-decibel delight.
“Ooh, I love kids,” Jones said afterward. “I’m telling you, every time we have kids in the gym, I feel like we play with more energy.”
And no one had more Wednesday than Jones, who had the most points and most rebounds of her college career.
In two seasons at Oho State, the 5-foot-10 guard had a total of nine points and six rebounds spread out over 15 games, seven as a freshman, eight as a sophomore.
After starring at Westerville South High School, that was a tough transition.
“Freshman year was hard,” she said. “I never even saw the court after playing a lot in high school. Sophomore year was a little better because I’d already dealt with it for a year and, in my mind, I knew this was not the place for me.”
UD coach Tamika Williams-Jeter had been an OSU assistant during Jones’ freshman season and wanted her once she heard she’d entered the transfer portal.
Although Jones has started 17 of 22 games this season — she was averaging 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a game — she’s had an up-and-down season at times, in part, Williams-Jeter said, because she sometimes “overthinks” on the court, rather than just react:
“She’s our most athletic player, our fastest and toughest and strongest. She can bench press the weight room, but she thinks too much sometimes and she worries about everybody else.
“She’s a kid who always gives everybody else their flowers. I’m always begging her, ‘Can you just take a petal a day for yourself?’
“Today she just played. She was aggressive. She rebounded. She took the ball coast to coast and when she does that she makes the whole team better.”
The Flyers had two other plyers in double figures. Center Mariah Perez had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Destiny Bohanon had 11 points and seven assists.
But the Flyers were done in by 22 turnovers, 15 in the second half and seven in the final six minutes, which helped erase that five-point lead.
The Flyers — whose game last Saturday was cancelled by COVID, which hit several players — limped into Wednesday’s game with just enough players to compete. Along with injury and Illness, UD was without veteran Maliya Perry, whose “personal issues,” Williams-Jeter said, have sidelined her.
Jones, who had had COVID and hadn’t practiced in nearly a week, gutted through her exhaustion and played 36 ½ minutes.
Yet any thoughts of medical miracles were erased with just 41.6 seconds left when Bohanon, the team’s leading scorer, severely sprained her right ankle and lay on the floor in pain.
She was helped off the court and though she swore to Williams-Jeter in the dressing room she would be ready to play Saturday when the Flyers host Saint Joseph, that seems all but impossible.
The Flyers do hope to have Arianna Smith back from COVID recovery so they can again field a bare-bones team.
“We’re a team — no matter what is happening to us — that refuses to roll over,’ Jones said. “We’ll keep fighting until the clock is all zeros. We’re playing for each other no matter what. That’s how we feel about each other.”
It’s why she said she’s glad she’s a Flyer “a million times over.”
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