March 13, 2020 Written by Kim Bradley
“Let your smile change the world. Never let the world change your smile.”
This is the quote at the top of WNBA star Brionna Jones’ twitter page (@_bjones18), and it embodies not only her philosophy, but her life journey, despite setbacks and disappointments that might have crippled the dreams of a less determined individual. At the ripe old age of 24, she is this week’s extraordinary female in our celebration of Women’s National History Month.
Brionna is a Maryland native who at 6’3, seemed destined to play basketball or volleyball. She played basketball at Aberdeen High School and in her junior year she led her team to the 2012 state championship. She was on track to do the same in her senior year until she was sidelined by a painful ACL tear in January 2013. She had just signed with the University of Maryland two months earlier. In an interview she said, “I was going up for a layup and I made a sudden stop and it kind of collapsed. I’m just trying to stay positive. I don’t want to get down. Just learn from it.”
After her surgery, instead of wallowing in self-pity, worrying about her basketball prospects at UMD, complaining about her bad luck, or fearing that she’d never fully recover, she took to the gym, put in long hours to rehabilitate her knee, and happily cheered on her teammates to another state championship.
When Brionna got to UMD and was told that she needed to increase her speed and become more nimble on the court, she didn’t protest, balk, or rail against the request. She didn’t feel sorry for herself or compare herself to other players with healthy knees. Instead, she gave up her favorite Barq’s root beer and candy and got to work. One of her college teammates said, “She just took it upon herself. She went through rehab every day, extra workouts, extra cardio, just to not get behind.”
Brionna’s hard work and positive attitude paid off:
1. At Maryland, Brionna led the nation in field goal percentage as a junior and senior.
2. She led her UMD team to two NCAA Final Four appearances.
3. She is one of five players in school history to reach 1,000 career rebounds.
4. She was the ESPNW and Naismith National Player of the Week in 2017 and earned multiple Big Ten Player of the Week accolades throughout her last two seasons at UMD.
5. UMD retired her jersey (#42) in 2017.
6. As a pre-med student, Brionna graduated with a degree in kinesiology in only three years.
7. In the 2017 WNBA draft, she was a first-round pick for the Connecticut Sun, where she has played forward for the last three seasons.
8. In addition to the Connecticut Sun, Brionna plays winter basketball in the Russian Premier League for Nadezhda Orenburg.
At 24, Brionna realizes that she will not play basketball forever, and has talked about a future working with children. She coaches basketball clinics and has said that her dream is to become a pediatrician. “When I was younger, I really wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “I really liked science and math, and I felt like that was one thing I could do.” We have no doubt that she will.
That’s what 2911 Group wants for all young women – to feel like they can do anything they put their minds to, regardless of naysayers and disappointments. We hope Brionna Jones’ story is an inspiration to all of you as a glimpse of what you can accomplish with a quiet determination to “never let the world change your smile.”