Alexis Jones is a Texas native who went to high school in the greater Dallas area and admires the playing style of former Baylor point guard Odyssey Sims. So how was it that Jones didn't end up going to Baylor to begin with?
You could attribute it to the lure of Duke and the desire to get away from familiar surroundings for a while. But after playing for the Blue Devils for two seasons -- the second ending with an ACL injury -- Jones decided that playing closer to home was for the best after all.
She sat out last season as a transfer, which might have been just as well since she was recovering from ACL surgery on one leg and a microfracture procedure on the other. Now Jones -- who was Sims' prep teammate -- is starting for sixth-ranked Baylor and is its second-leading scorer behind All-American Nina Davis.
"I've been blessed to play in two good programs and learn things from both." Alexis Jones
As the 17-1 Lady Bears prepare for Sunday's showdown at undefeated No. 4 Texas (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m. ET), Jones is settling into her role and is pragmatic about how it all worked out the way it did.
"I had a great experience there, and it's nothing I regret," Jones said of her two years at Duke. "I learned things I probably wouldn't have learned otherwise, and I brought that back with me."
Jones' last game with the Blue Devils, though, was a painful one: She suffered a torn ACL in her left knee in a loss to Notre Dame on Feb. 23, 2014. Duke had lost then-senior Chelsea Gray to a knee injury that January, and she comforted a distraught Jones on the bench after her injury.
Jones then had to watch the NCAA tournament, rather than participate in it. And after a lot of thought when Duke's season ended, she knew it was best to go back to Texas.
"I really wanted to challenge myself education-wise, and Duke was my dream school when I was younger," Jones said of her initial decision to go to Durham, North Carolina. "I wanted to get out of my shell more.
"But because I'm back home, my family and friends can come to games. One of the biggest things I had in mind was, 'My dad needs to watch me play.' He can do that at Baylor and also get to those good away games that he wanted to come to."
Such as at Texas. Austin is an hour and a half south of Waco, which is roughly the halfway point between Dallas and the state-capital city. Jones' father, David, was paralyzed in an auto accident several years ago, so traveling to places closer to their home base in Irving, Texas, is a bit easier.
Jones left behind the Tobacco Road rivalry for an I-35 rivalry. Actually that interstate connects Baylor with not just Austin to the south, but even TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and even (eventually) Iowa State to the north. After experiencing the ACC, Jones is now going through her first Big 12 season as a player, having watched from the Baylor bench last season.
It's pretty much a given that players end up seeing the game in a new light after they sit out a season. Jones definitely did.
"For me, it helped with just understanding the flow of the game better," Jones said. "When to speed up and when to slow down. But it helped a lot for my knees, too, to recover.
"I'm still trying to get back to feeling like myself on the court. I'm trying to cut out some of the mistakes I'm making from not being out there last season."
Both she and coach Kim Mulkey would say that the strongest aspect of Jones' game right now is her scoring; she's averaging 14.6 points. In Big 12 play, Jones has had games of 25 points (vs. Oklahoma) and 20 (vs. West Virginia on Tuesday).
Jones has been Baylor's top 3-point shooter, making 33 of 84 (39.3 percent) so far. But she also leads the team in turnovers with 58, and Mulkey wants to see that curtailed.
"She's not fluid yet, but she'll hit a big shot for you," Mulkey said. "But the unforced turnovers -- we've got to stop that in the open floor."
Jones understands that, and it's something she will keep trying to improve. She reflects back on 2014 -- when she had her two surgeries within a couple of months of each other -- and the transition to playing again in 2015, and she knows it has been a long road to travel.
"I got through it by really being positive," she said. "When I thought about being back on the court, I wanted to be back to myself and get the quickness that I need.
"I'm still not feeling totally like myself now. But like my dad has been telling me, in order to get back to where you want to be, you have to stay in the gym. There's no substitute for the work."
Jones is grateful for having played with former Duke guards Gray and Tricia Liston, and now for the chance to play alongside Niya Johnson, who leads the nation in assists per game (10.4).
"I've been blessed to play in two good programs," Jones said, "and learn things from both."