COLUMBIA — Ron Jones knew the day was drawing near.
The former MU basketball player could tell his daughter, Shakara, was finally going to beat him in a one-on-one on the court. It wasn’t because Shakara was getting better while he was getting older. It was for a different, more physical reason.
“She hit me with an elbow, and I knew it was kind of time,” he said.
It was in Shakara Jones’ sophomore year of high school on the court at Francis Howell High School in St. Charles when she hit a hook shot over her dad’s outstretched arms to beat him for the first time.
“He was like, ‘Argh, you finally got me,’” Shakara Jones said.
That moment was just one of many the two have shared on a basketball court since Shakara Jones first picked up a basketball. The two have spent countless hours together with Ron Jones teaching his daughter to play as a child and coaching her through high school.
Ron Jones had been playing with his daughter, now a freshman forward for the MU women’s basketball team, ever since she first said she wanted to play basketball in the third grade. Even before that, Shakara Jones was always around the game. Ron Jones coached a boy’s team in Kansas City when she was a little girl and her dad brought her along to practices and games.
“She was just a little gym rat at that point,” Ron Jones said. “She was crawling around, walking around, running around.”
And eventually she wanted to get on the court with a ball in hand herself. When she did, Ron Jones couldn’t have been happier.
“I was so excited when she came to me and said ‘Dad, I want to play basketball,’” Ron Jones said. “I never forced either one of my daughters to play ball and when they both said they wanted to play we ran with it.”
When Shakara said she wanted to play, Ron Jones was determined she would learn to play the right way. So he taught her the fundamentals. Shakara Jones learned to play by doing drills with her dad.
“We started with the basics with her just laying on the floor, shooting the ball in the air,” Ron Jones said. “The main thing was for her to get the right technique down with the dribbling, the passing and shooting the ball. As time went on we started playing a lot of one-on-one basketball.”
Shakara Jones remembers those days fondly. She appreciated the time her dad spent teaching her the game, and she enjoyed the time she was able to spend with him each day.
“We had our hoop in front of our driveway and then he had some ladders and some little hurdles that I used to jump, and some jump rope and I would dribble around our circle drive,” she said.
While Shakara Jones learned to play through drills in a structured environment, she wasn’t worked too hard. Ron Jones made sure his daughter was exercising, but he didn’t run her ragged. There was no basketball boot camp being run in the Jones’ household.
“A lot of people for some reason think you have to play all day,” he said. “You really don’t, you can work out in an hour, sometimes 45 minutes. We would go out in the driveway, out in the parks and we would shoot a lot in practice.”
When Shakara Jones began playing competitive organized basketball, her dad was still there. Ron Jones coached his daughter throughout her AAU days and became an assistant coach at Francis Howell High School when she played there.
Some teenagers would loathe the idea of spending more time than necessary with a parent, but Shakara Jones loved learning from her father.
“It was like he wasn’t my dad,” she said. “He was my coach and he was my friend and he just tried to help me out.”
Her dad felt the same way.
“We always had a good rapport,” Ron Jones said. “A lot of people can’t coach their kids.”
That rapport came partly from a daughter’s desire to learn and a father’s coaching style that meshed perfectly with her.
“He’s a very lovable person,” Shakara Jones said. “He’ll come at you, but he won’t down-rate you — he’s going to help you.”
Even at a young age, Ron Jones saw his daughter emerging as a strong basketball player. He was especially pleased to see her becoming a leader on the court.
“She was very vocal,” he said. “She never liked to lose and she would always encourage her teammates. She would say good things to them and she would let them know when they were doing something wrong. She was actually a coach at a young age and I knew she was going to be something special.”
When Shakara Jones began playing in high school, her dad’s prediction that she would be a special player came true. She was a four-year starter at Francis-Howell High School, scored 2,439 points and grabbed 849 rebounds, and was the 2007 Miss Show-Me Basketball. Those numbers were enough to catch Missouri coach Cindy Stein’s attention.
But Stein had some serious competition. Tennessee hall-of-fame coach Pat Summitt wanted Shakara Jones to play for the one of the most prestigious programs in the country.
While Shakara Jones was impressed with Tennessee, Missouri had one thing Summitt couldn’t offer: a strong family history at the school. Ron Jones played for four years under Norm Stewart from 1980-84, winning three Big 8 conference titles. He met Anita Squires-Jones, his wife and Shakara Jones’ mother, at MU.
Ron Jones was known as a defensive specialist in his career and was never much of a scorer for the Tigers. His defensive skills were put to the test when the Tigers took on Dean Smith’s North Carolina team in 1982 and he drew the unenviable assignment to guard Michael Jordan.
No problem. He held the future NBA superstar to 13 points in a 64-60 Tiger win.
“All I did was call for a lot of help; I had a lot of help from teammates,” said Ron Jones, remembering what he said was the best moment of his Tiger career. “It was exciting. He’s a very exciting player, the best player in the world. It was a lot of fun and a team effort.”
Her parents’ history, especially her father’s, played a big role in Shakara Jones’ decision to come to MU. She wanted to follow her father and even decided to wear his number, 44.
“I thought it would be a great legacy to have, a father-daughter thing,” she said. “It was up to me and I know I made a good decision.”
It was a decision that Ron Jones let his daughter make on her own, even though he was hoping she would pick Missouri. When she told him she was going to Missouri, he was thrilled.
“I tell you what, I jumped about five feet in the air when she said she wanted to come here,” Ron Jones said. “To pass up Pat Summitt and Tennessee ... I pretty much just left it up to her. I didn’t want to make the decision for her, but she analyzed the decision. She knew Cindy Stein, she felt very comfortable with the coaching staff. We’re a very close family and it’s only 90 miles away.”
When Shakara Jones took the court for the first time wearing No. 44 in a Missouri uniform on Nov. 5, it was also the first time her father wasn’t on the bench coaching her. He misses the days when he was able to be on the floor with her.
“It’s a little hard sitting in the stands,” he said.
But even though he isn’t his daughter’s coach any more, Ron Jones is still a big part of her continuing basketball education. Shakara Jones still leans on him for advice as she adjusts to the college game.
“Now we talk over the phone about what I need to do, he’s not standing there anymore. He still gives me his two cents. We talk every day, he’ll still find something new to pick on,” she said, laughing.
But that’s not the most important thing anymore. He’s not concerned with teaching her the same skills she learned from him as a child, now he’s trying to teach her patience as she learns to play at the Division I level.
“She’s very hard on herself, she’s a perfectionist,” he said. “I try to tell her that you can’t beat yourself up after a bad game, you have to go out and play hard. I tell her you didn’t do this right, you didn’t do that right and she still listens.”