RED SPRINGS — Taya Jones started working toward her goal when she was in elementary school.
On Tuesday at Red Springs High School, the senior guard for the Lady Red Devils celebrated the journey of having reached that moment.
“It was a long one, but I don’t regret anything that happened,” said Jones, who will be playing college basketball at North Carolina A&T next year.
“I’m just happy that I finally got what I was working for since, maybe, fifth grade. I’m just excited.”
Surrounded by family and friends in a crowded auditorium, Jones was showered with praise by Red Springs coach Steve Sinclair.
“I think even from that moment when she was younger, nobody ever doubted the talent and gift that she had,” he said. “Even with that talent and gift, she continued to work and get better.”
An all-conference, all-district and all-county performer for Red Springs, Jones averaged 17.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.5 steals per game during her junior campaign.
With a 24-point performance last season in the championship game of Three Rivers Conference tournament, Jones led the Lady Red Devils to their first tourney title since the 2007-08 season.
“It was a constant working toward (the championship) and making sure we kept that goal in mind,” Sinclair said. “(Taya) embodied everything that we wanted the program to be. She is a true student-athlete with no discipline problems.”
Now, Jones has her eyes set on leaving as a 2,000-point scorer. Sinclair saw that scoring potential in January when his standout guard had a 38-point explosion against Whiteville.
“Her dad (Tyron Jones) showed up for that game and surprised her,” Sinclair said. “It ignited something else in here. She went out that night and she couldn’t miss.”
Pairing her abilities on the court with her performance in the classroom, Sinclair said “it was an easy sell” when N.C. A&T entered the frame.
“Not only was she talented, but her school work was there. Nothing was in question,” he said. “She’s always worked to improve.”
And Jones felt right at home when she visited the campus in Greensboro.
“When I visited, the girls (on the team) barely knew me but they treated me like family,” she said. “The coaches are great people also.”
Aggies head coach Tarrell Robinson spoke highly of Jones when he announced the three-player signing class for 2018 last week.
“We feel we got a steal in landing Taya,” Robinson said in the release. “She could be one of the best shooters/scorers in the state of North Carolina, and we look forward to her showcasing that ability here.
“She is a gym rat that is always looking to get better. Taya is a versatile and athletic scoring guard that can create her own shot and knockdown the open shot. She complements our perimeter players well. She is also a scholar athlete.”
Rodd Baxley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.