March 29, 2024 

Taylor Jones finds herself back in Oregon with the Longhorns

Jones spent three seasons at Oregon State, so returning to the state this week was 'kind of weird'

PORTLAND, Ore. — Landing at the Portland International Airport on Wednesday in a Texas Longhorns team plane was a new experience for Taylor Jones.

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“Coming back here for basketball and having it not being for Oregon State is kind of weird for sure,” Jones told The Next on Thursday.

Jones probably didn’t count on her collegiate basketball journey taking her back to the place she started it. She spent three seasons at Oregon State, where she was an all-conference performer under head coach Scott Rueck until she transferred back to her home state in 2022.

Now, the 6’4 Texas center is back in Oregon with the top-seeded Longhorns, preparing to face fourth-seeded Gonzaga in Friday’s regional semifinal at the Moda Center.


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Jones grew up in Forney, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Returning to Texas was a personal decision rooted in wanting to be close to family and friends. Jones was playing at Oregon State in 2019 when her mother Deanna died of cancer. Her decision about where to transfer to came down to Arizona and Texas.

While her father Keith is a Texas A&M alum, Deanna Jones had always wanted Jones to be a Longhorn. And so Jones landed in Austin. Vic Schaefer, the Texas head coach, had recruited her when he was at Mississippi State.

“I liked him when he was recruiting me, but I didn’t want to go to Mississippi,” Jones said. “It came down to him being a great coach and looking at what he’s done for players in my position and how he runs his teams. It’s really professional and it’s aligned with everything that I wanted.

“And the cherry on top was being able to be closer to home.”

Schaefer, also an A&M alum, has joked with Keith Jones about wearing Longhorn orange.

“I told him, ‘Trust me, brother, it will be fine,'” Schaefer told reporters on Thursday.

The secret to success for Jones has been the ability to stay healthy. Persistent shoulder and hip injuries — she had surgeries on both shoulders and both hips in the last four years — have limited her. She had two of those surgeries redone during that same span and joked that if she wandered into a doctor’s office right now, she’s sure they would find something that needs to be fixed.

The 2023 offseason was the first of her collegiate career in which she didn’t have an operation. The 27 games she’s played this season are a career high.

Still, Jones got a preseason concussion that kept her out of practice, and a “freak” hip injury cost her two weeks in December before the start of Big 12 play.

“When she’s been healthy, she’s been pretty good for us,” Schaefer said. “She’s been up and down in terms of statistics, but she’s made a big impact on our team.”


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Jones has built a reservoir of resiliency based on all she has been through. She will be able to tap into that this weekend, when she could play two of the biggest games of her life, with a trip to the Final Four on the horizon.

Her size, efficiency, good hands and ability to keep the ball high — not to mention her 6’10 wingspan — have made Jones one of the top posts in the nation. She is Texas’ third-leading scorer at 12.4 points per game and its leading rebounder at 6.4 per game, improving on last year’s averages of 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds. She is shooting 60% from the floor and has 60 blocks, nearing her program single-season record from a year ago of 62.


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Jones will be key to containing Gonzaga forward Yvonne Ejim, who is averaging 19.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game and has posted double-doubles in each of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament games thus far.

Should she be successful, Jones could face Stanford’s post tandem of Cameron Brink and Kiki Iriafen, if the Cardinal can beat North Carolina State to advance to the Elite Eight. She has already battled against the likes of Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee, Iowa State’s Audi Crooks and UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards.

“Having her on the team just really opens up so much for us,” guard Shay Holle told reporters on Thursday. “She’s such a presence inside, and people really have to focus on her … Rebounding, she’s so long. She alters a bunch of shots on defense. Really, [she helps] on both ends of the floor.”


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Jones plans on returning for one last season next year and will get her master’s degree.

No matter what uniform she is wearing, she says her dad, the Aggies alum, is proud of her.

“My mom is proud of me, too,” Jones said.

Written by Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has covered women's basketball nationally for nearly three decades. Smith has worked for ESPN.com, The Athletic, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as Pac-12.com and WNBA.com. She was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, is the 2017 recipient of the Jake Wade Media Award from the Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and was named the Mel Greenberg Media Award winner by the WBCA in 2019.

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