Tulsa Shock signs embattled former Olympian Marion Jones

The WNBA Tulsa Shock signed former track star Marion Jones. Although drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in 2003, she never suited up for the team and will be considered a rookie free agent in the league.

WNBA president Donna Orender attended the team’s press conference announcing the signing. Jones, a 34 year-old who gave birth to her third child last spring, had an individual workout with Shock head coach Nolan Richardson on Saturday in Tulsa. He offered a chance to join the team a few days later.

I’m extremely excited to join the team and the WNBA,” Jones said.  “After a lot of thought, I realized this is a great fit for me because of Coach Richardson’s uptempo style of play.  I can’t wait to start training camp and learn more about the city and team I’ll be representing.”

Coach Nolan Richardson planned to put Jones through another workout before making a decision to offer her, but said he saw all he needed in the first workout.

“Watching her go through drills, I saw a player who’s perfect for our system,” Richardson said.  “The one thing I do know is she can run, and any player on my team who wants to be successful needs be able to run.”

Prior to her Olympic career in track and field, Jones starred on the basketball court at Thousand Oaks High School and led the team to a state championship in 1992 before being named the California Division I Player of the Year as a senior.  She attended the University of North Carolina on a basketball scholarship, where she started at point guard and helped the Tar Heels to a 92-10 record over three seasons.  Jones ranks fifth on the school’s career assists list, third in steals and seventh in blocks.  Jones was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2003 WNBA Draft (3rd Round, 33rd overall) but never played for the team.  She won three gold medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics, but was later stripped of those medals because of her admission to using performance-enhancing drugs and consequently served time in prison.

Tulsa Shock President Steve Swetoha said Jones is a great addition to the franchise and is deserving of another chance to succeed in athletics.

“She made some ill-advised decisions in the past, but everyone deserves a second chance to excel at something they love,” Swetoha said.  “The city of Tulsa gave a struggling franchise from Detroit a second chance, and I’m confident it will do the same for Marion.  We couldn’t be happier to have her on board.”

She worked out with San Antonio Silver Stars head coach Sandy Brondello and assistant Olaf Lange this past winter.

“I may not be your typical rookie in this league, but I’ll still bring that rookie energy,” Jones said.  “I’m looking forward to competing against the best female athletes in the world.”

The Tulsa Shock home opener is May 15 against the Minnesota Lynx.

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