Marion Jones wants second chance

TULSA, Okla. -- Former Olympic track gold medalist Marion Jones knows all about second chances.

She wouldn't mind another shot at showing what she can do in the WNBA.

"I still think that I didn't get a chance to really show what I can do on the court. I don't have a problem saying that," Jones said in an interview Wednesday night.

"And if someone would be willing to give me that opportunity, I would definitely look at it seriously. But also I think that I have a passion for the sport -- I have a passion for sport -- and if there's a way that I can somehow contribute even if it's not playing ... I will look at that seriously."

Jones was waived by the WNBA-worst Tulsa Shock last week after averaging less than a point in 14 games this season. She was re-signed after averaging 3.4 points and 9.4 minutes while playing all 34 games for Tulsa last season, but rarely got playing time this season. She was let go shortly after Nolan Richardson resigned as Tulsa's coach and general manager.

"I'm at a point right now where I'm not counting anything out. Anything's possible," Jones said after speaking at a Tulsa Community College fundraiser. "It could possibly happen, or it couldn't, but I certainly will remain in shape and be ready to play if I get the call and if I feel that's the right opportunity for myself and my family, then we'll consider it."

Jones was the point guard on North Carolina's 1994 national championship team but focused on track after college, winning three gold medals and two bronzes at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney that she later had to give back. The one-time fastest woman in the world and international icon was sentenced to serve six months in federal prison after pleading guilty to lying to federal investigators about taking performance-enhancing drugs and a role in a check fraud scam.

She was the keynote speaker at TCC's Second Chance Scholarship Dinner, a fundraiser for the school's program that helps inmates work toward an associate's degree and hopefully land on their feet after being released.

Jones could speak from experience, having started over following her own incarceration.

"I'm living proof that second chances can happen," Jones said in her speech. "I know that some may think that I didn't struggle with certain things that regular ex-convicts do. In some cases that's true, but I did wrestle with many things that the public didn't see.

"I struggled through my whole sentence with just how I messed up, how I messed up my life, and what I was going to do with it once I was released. ... I had gone from being famous to infamous, and that's a very tough thing to deal with, and even today I still have that stigma."

Jones even started a class to help inmates earn their GEDs while she was in prison, and said "I absolutely see that a program like this can make a difference."

"I knew that once I was released, the opportunities that I had were probably a lot better than them. The first step for them is to get their GED, learn to read and to write and to somehow build the confidence to be able to get a job for themselves, take care of their families, take care of themselves," Jones said. "That's a big part of it.

"Once you show somebody that they can take care of their family, that makes all the difference in the world."

The Tulsa Community College program has grown from 19 students to about 200 enrollments and is set to award its first associate's degrees to six people who completed the four-year program. Gornie Williams, an associate dean at TCC, said the program will soon lose federal grant funding.

"The more education we can provide these folks, then the less chance there is for them to go back to prison," Williams said.

Jones said she now will return with her husband and three children to their home in Austin, Texas, and she plans to focus more time on delivering her "Take a Break" message that encourages others to pause for a moment before making critical decisions -- like she wishes she did before the lie that resulted in her conviction.

From her second chance, at playing in the WNBA, Jones said she still thinks she has "a lot to contribute basketball-playing-wise."

"I had hopes that once I was given this opportunity that people would see, be inspired by me and my story and the fact that after everything that I'd been through, I certainly didn't give up and it's actually now only the beginning," Jones said.

"I had a wonderful experience in the city of Tulsa and of course I was disappointed like anybody else to be waived. Nobody wants that, but I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason."