COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Haley Jones has persisted.
The 6-foot-1 guard/forward from Santa Cruz, California, is at the United States Olympic Training Center for her fourth USA Basketball national team trials this weekend as the club that will represent the United States at the FIBA U-17 World Cup in July is being chosen.
She is looking to make the cut for the first time.
"A lot of my determination comes from not making it in past years," Jones said on Friday. "Every time I got cut I thought, 'Next year I'm going to do this better.' I've learned from each failure, you could say, and I've come back with more intensity and tenacity. This is the year I'm determined to give it all, do what the coaches say, and really be a leader."
She may never have a better opportunity. Jones' stock has risen in the past year. She was the 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year in California and is rated as the No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2019 nationally by ESPN HoopGurlz. She is being pursued by most of the top college programs in the country including the University of Connecticut. She made an unofficial visit to Storrs last month.
"I've become a better leader in the last year," Jones said. "I've worked on being a better shooter, having a better pull-up game, and working on my ballhandling skills. I wanted to be more confident with the ball in my hands and be more of a scorer than being passive."
Jones averaged 21.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.6 blocked shots to lead Archbishop Mitty of San Jose to a 29-1 record and the Central Coast Section Open title. The Monarchs, who are coached by Sue Phillips -- who guided Team USA to gold at the 2013 FIBA U-16 Championships and the 2014 FIBA U-17 world championships, were ranked the No. 1 team in the country by USA Today.
In the CIF State Open Division semifinals, Jones helped Archbishop Mitty build a 16-point third-quarter lead before she went to the bench with four fouls. She'd foul out with 1:31 left in regulation and finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. But Pinewood would end the Monarchs' season with a 78-67 triple-overtime upset.
"It was a great season and it was the favorite team that I've been on with Mitty," Jones said. "We were all close and our three seniors kept us close. It was fun to be around them. One of the reasons we were successful was because of the team chemistry.
"But then triple overtime, fouling out ... I was on the bench and I just tried to be the best teammate that I could. The day after my only thought was, 'This is not going to happen again.' "
The strength of her game is playing multiple positions, though she does call herself a point forward.
One top college coach said privately there isn't another high school player in the country quite like her.
"You don't have to look at me in one category," Jones said. "A lot of people classify me as a wing. But you can put me against a post player or you can put me against a point guard.
"Being versatile gives you more opportunities to get on the floor and get minutes. You can go to any position your coach needs you and they'll look to you because they know you can get it done. Instead of being labeled a point guard or center or whatever, you're a basketball player."
The daughter of basketball coaches, Jones began playing hoops in third grade and joined a club squad made up of mostly high school players while she was in seventh grade. She became a starter.
Her club teammates gave her a nickname -- "Baby UConn."
"I didn't understand what that was about when I was little," Jones said with a laugh. "When I took my unofficial visit they were like, 'Oh my God, it's happening!" I don't know guys. I haven't made a decision about what I'm going to do."
Jones, who turned 17 this week, has had home visits with nine schools: UConn, California, Louisville, Notre Dame, Oregon, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas, and UCLA. She will cut the list to five and do another round of home visits. She said she has not planned or scheduled any official visits.
Her unofficial visit to UConn followed a trip to Virginia to take part in the Boo Williams Invitational.
"I basically ask the same questions everywhere that I visit," Jones said.
"One of the main things I'm looking for is team chemistry," she added. "When I take a visit I want to spend time with the team and get to know them and see whether I can see myself with that program. I'm looking at the coaching staffs because you're going to be coached by these people every day for four years. And I'm looking what the school has to offer after basketball because your career can only go so far. Academics are important."
As she continues her U-17 bid, Jones can look at a former UConn star as inspiration. Moriah Jefferson was cut the first three times she tried out for a USA team before making the 2012 U-18 squad and all she did was go on to be a four-time national champion and two-time All-American at UConn and the overall No. 2 pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft.
Persistence can pay off.