COLUMBIA — Playing for the Missouri women’s basketball team isn’t for the faint of heart.
Coach Robin Pingeton can often be found pacing the sidelines, shouting instructions or pointing a stern finger at her players during a timeout.
Kansas State Wildcats (15-5, 5-2 Big 12)
at Missouri Tigers (11-11, 3-5 Big 12)
WHEN: 2 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM
During nearly every dead ball, senior RaeShara Brown talks to one of her teammates with a wide-eyed expression and strong voice that demands her attention.
Pingeton and Brown have similar leadership styles. They are both fiery, intense people who demand a lot from the members of their team. That tough love is crucial for a young Tigers team that has a lot to learn. But sometimes the players just need some positive reinforcement, someone they can go to who will bring their spirits up no matter what they’ve just done. That person is Shakara Jones.
“Shak’s the mother on the team to everyone,” sophomore guard Trenee Thornton said.
It’s been a tough run for the Tigers so far in Big 12 Conference play. As a senior, it would be easy forJones to just focus on her own play during a rebuilding year for Missouri. But that’s not her nature.
“I look up to Shak, she’s a good person,” sophomore guard Sydney Crafton said. “Her leadership style is to look after the younger girls.”
The Tigers are the worst in the Big 12 in turnover margin, something that would frustrate any coach, especially one as demanding as Pingeton. When any of the players gets an earful from a coach, Jones is there to balance things out.
“They’ll come at you hard, which is good, you need it,” Crafton said. “Then Shak is like ‘in one ear and out the other. Take what’s good and leave the bad.’”
Like a mother, Jones puts the younger players' needs ahead of her own. During summer conditioning, a time when every player is using all her energy just to get through the workout, Jones was thinking about her teammates.
“You’re running and want to quit and she’s just like, ‘it’s OK, you’re almost there,’” Crafton said. “She’s just so encouraging. She’s never negative in the worst situations. There may be nothing good, but she’s never negative.”
Pingeton definitely sees the motherly side of Jones.
“She seems mature beyond her age,” Pingeton said. “She’s slow to speak, quick to listen. She’s got a lot of compassion and empathy in her heart. She’s a people pleasure. But there’s a lot of drive in her, too.”
Jones has become so respected by her teammates that they open up to her about things outside of basketball.
“They’ll come to me with their problems or whatever they’re thinking that day, and I’ll just try to help them the best that I can,” Jones said. “I would like to be remembered as that calm leader that was more of the mother, that you could talk to about all your problems not just on the court, but off the court too.”
Jones innate nature can also be burdensome.
“We continue to get her to embrace her role as a leader and mother on this team, but also to be able to let that warrior-like mentality just flow out,” Pingeton said. “She holds onto the past too much and worries too much about the future instead of just staying in the present.”
In the midst of a 3-5 start to Big 12 play, it is not surprising what Jones is telling her teammates.
“There’s still a lot of games left, still time to make a change and turn this thing around,” she said.