Haley Jones traveled more than 15,000 miles for her official visits and then waited nine extra days as the air from the Northern California wildfires cleared. On Wednesday, the top-ranked women's basketball prospect finally announced her plan to move a mere 45 miles from her Santa Cruz home and signed with Stanford and coach Tara VanDerveer.
Jones announced her decision in a morning signing ceremony in front of family, teammates and classmates at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose.
"It will be great to be a part of a program that is always up there competing for national championships," Jones said in a phone interview. "Playing for a coach like Tara, who is a Hall of Fame coach, is going to be a great experience."
Jones is the first No. 1 prospect to sign with Stanford since 2010, when Chiney Ogwumike signed with the Cardinal. Ogwumike now plays for the WNBA's Connecticut Sun.
The signature from Jones boosts the Stanford class to No. 2 in the country. VanDerveer previously welcomed No. 16 Ashten Prechtel, No. 23 Francesca Belibi and No. 50 Hannah Jump. Jones picked Stanford over Notre Dame, South Carolina, Oregon and UConn, which signed a single recruit -- No. 33 Aubrey Griffin. South Carolina's five-player class ranks No. 1 in the country.
The 6-foot-1 Jones handles the ball, passes well and can shoot from anywhere on the floor. Her high basketball IQ allows her to wreak havoc on both sides of the ball. She's a poised and confident floor leader.
"She's the most versatile player in the country," Archbishop Mitty coach Sue Phillips said. "She's the type of kid who can fit into any system."
Jones averaged 21.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a junior at Mitty, which was one of the best teams in the country. She was named the 2017-18 California Gatorade Player of the Year and earned All-America honors from USA Today and MaxPreps.
Over the summer, Jones was a part of the USA Basketball team that won gold at the FIBA U17 World Cup in Minsk, Belarus. Playing alongside future Cardinal teammate Belibi, Jones was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 10.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in seven starts for Team USA.
Stanford's proximity to her home was a factor for Jones -- being close enough for her parents and grandparents to attend home games will be nice -- but what set Stanford apart was everything the school offers off the court, she said.
"This is more than a four-year decision," Jones said. "The degree means so much, going to Stanford."
Jones plans to study psychology and is interested in working in sports psychology. She is fascinated by how the brain can impact overcoming injury and how athletes can train their minds as well as their bodies.
"A big part of whatever sport you're in is the mental side of it, and we don't really train that part," Jones said.
Stanford became the clear choice for Jones in the days and weeks following her final official visit to Oregon, the weekend of Nov. 10. Once she returned home, she started to process each of the five visits she took and parsed through the information to find the best fit. Her parents weighed in as guides, but Jones owned the decision for herself.
Her original plan was to announce her decision at a ceremony at Archbishop Mitty on Nov. 19, but the Northern California wildfires caused school closures. So Jones signed her national letter of intent during the early signing period, which ended Nov. 21, but she waited until Wednesday to reveal her choice.
"It was a really hard process, especially making the phone calls to the other schools I didn't choose," Jones said. "These are the coaches that I have the strongest relationships with; calling them was really tough. It would have been easier if I didn't vibe with the coaches or players, but all of these schools are so great and I had a great relationship with everyone that I met."
Ironically, it might be the people she hasn't yet met who sealed it for Stanford. The diversity of the campus is something that excites Jones.
"Having diversity is really important for personal growth," Jones said. "You get to hear all of these different perspectives on important issues discussed in college. It's such an amazing opportunity to be immersed in this community."
Just as Jones is excited about her future, Stanford looks to be set up well too. In addition to the stellar 2019 recruiting class, the Cardinal already have two commits from the 2020 class: No. 2 Cameron Brink and No. 37 Jana Van Gytenbeek.