In a story broken by Sports Scope writer Fred Sturrup, The Bahamas’ best female basketball player is taking her talents elsewhere.
Jonquel Jones, the 6’6” star of the Connecticut Sun in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), has decided to accept a citizenship status offer from Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) in an attempt to broaden her scope in international play.
As a citizen of BiH, Jones is now eligible to play in European basketball leagues that are far more lucrative than the WNBA, and also represent BiH in international tournaments.
The downside for The Bahamas is that she could no longer represent the country abroad, significantly jeopardizing its chances of advancement through the Olympic and world cup qualifying process.
FIBA (International Basketball Federation) rules are very stringent as it relates to players switching allegiance. Jones couldn’t be reached for comment, but according to reports, the native islander from Holmes Rock, Grand Bahama, said that she hasn’t renounced her Bahamian citizenship, meaning she will carry the passport of both countries as a dual citizen. However, as it relates to FIBA, she could only play for one internationally, and Jones has chosen BiH.
She had to be released by the Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) in order to play for BiH, and federation first vice president Mario Bowleg said that they didn’t want to hold her back from her desire and dreams.
“This is something that Jonquel has been pondering for two years now. We tried to persuade her in the opposite direction, but at the end of the day, it’s a financial decision and we support that,” said Bowleg. “It’s important to note that Jonquel did not renounce her Bahamian citizenship. She just wants to further her basketball career internationally and we support that.”
Bowleg said that in the European leagues, the women basketball players could pull in 10-12 times more than what they collect in the WNBA in terms of salaries and provisions.
Additionally, Jones has stated her intention of one day playing in the Olympics. Whereas it’s not out of the realm of possibility for The Bahamas to one day reach that level, it’s much more realistic and a smoother path for Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A top six finish for BiH at the EuroBasket Women 2019 will keep its hope alive for qualification for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Once BiH finishes in the top six at the EuroBasket Women 2019, it will qualify for the World Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, in which a top two or three finish would send BiH through to the 2020 Olympics.
The southeastern European country is home to three and a half million people, while The Bahamas is home to a little less than 400,000.
Nevertheless, Bowleg, who just retired as senior men’s national coach this summer, said that with Jones in the mix, it was quite likely that The Bahamas women’s national team would have moved through the rounds and possibly qualified for the Olympics as well.
“It’s bittersweet but we support her decision,” he said. “When you look at what we have, we thought that our chances were great and she was a pivotal piece, but we’ll just continue with what we have and continue to build on that. Jonquel is playing at a high level and she was pursued. She decided to take that step and that might or might not be beneficial to her. We support her and we wish her well.”
Other than winning gold at the 2015 FIBA CBC (Caribbean Basketball Confederation) Championship for Women, The Bahamas hasn’t fared particularly well in international competitions. The Bahamas finished third at this year’s CBC Championships, and was fifth at Centrobasket.
Therefore, The Bahamas failed to qualify for the 2019 FIBA Women’s AmeriCup where a top three finish would have sent the nation to the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup which is one way The Bahamas women’s national basketball team could have gotten to the Olympics.
Otherwise, the nation must qualify for the World Olympic Qualifying Tournaments through pre-Olympic qualifying tournaments which themselves must be qualified for through Continental Cups.
Needless to say, the process is extremely challenging and tedious, particularly since The Bahamas has never even qualified for the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup which is the third of five stages the country must go through.
As for Jones, she is a bonafide star worldwide.
In the past two seasons in the WNBA, she has carted off the WNBA Most Improved and Best Sixth Woman awards while leading the Sun to the playoffs both times. She was selected to the WNBA All-Star game in 2017, and was named to the All-WNBA Second Team. In 2017, Jones set the single-season rebounds record in the WNBA, collecting 403 rebounds. She became the first player to ever record more than 400 rebounds in a season in the WNBA. She averaged 15.4 points and 11.9 rebounds per game as a starter for the Connecticut Sun in 2017, and 11.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game primarily off the bench this past season.
Additionally, Jones dominated league play in South Korea and China over the past two years. In South Korea, in particular, she led her team to a league title and won the season Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. Jones averaged a massive double-double in both Asian countries. She is now taking her talents overseas again, this time as a citizen of another country.
Be that as it may, Jones is well loved in Grand Bahama, and by extension, the entire country of The Bahamas, and whether or not she plays for her home nation again, she will continue to receive tremendous support from Bahamians.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting