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Haley Jones Paves Path for WNBA Players’ Off-Court Dreams

Boardroom sits down with Haley Jones, who is leading the charge with one of the only female-first athlete-to-athlete shows in media.

Haley Jones remembers the WNBA Draft like it was yesterday. Fresh off wrapping up four years at Stanford, the Atlanta Dream‘s sixth overall pick in 2023 says that short of winning a national title as a Cardinal, it was one of the happiest days of her life — even if she temporarily forgot where she was.

“When they called my name, I think I may have blacked out,” Jones joked to Boardroom. “Everything you’ve worked for is finally a dream come true, and now you can celebrate with your favorite people. The mindset I had was just trying to take it all in and be present in the moment. And then once I got drafted and spoke with [Atlanta Dream head coach] Tanisha [Wright], it felt real. Like I’m moving there in two weeks, it’s time to get to work.”

One of the more interesting parts of the WNBA Draft is its timing. It’s unlike the NFL, NBA, and even the NWSL, where teams have at least a month between the conclusion of a season and draft day to plan picks accordingly. March Madness concluded with South Carolina winning the national championship on April 8. Many of those athletes who competed in Cleveland will hear their names tonight, starting with expected No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark.

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Even after being drafted, though, it’s not guaranteed a player will land on a roster, so the pressure quite literally begins the moment they hear their name.

“It’s definitely difficult because with the W only having 144 spots, 36 are getting picked on draft night, and then you go to your respective teams where if you end up getting drafted, there are only 12 spots on every team. So, the reality is a majority of the draft class isn’t making it on a roster,” Jones said. Once you enter training camp, it’s a different type of work ethic. You may have the skillset, but they’re bigger, faster, stronger. They’ve been doing it for years, they’re efficient.

“And then on top of that, it’s not just the people who get drafted competing for a spot, other people signing training camp contracts, and other vets returning from playing overseas. You have to take everything seriously.”

More Than a Hooper

When she’s not suiting up, you can still expect to see Jones talking all things basketball on her podcast Sometimes I Hoop. One of the only female-first athlete-to-athlete programs, Jones has welcomed the likes of Clark, Flau’jae Johnson, Aliyah Boston, Hailey Van Lith, Aaliyah Edwards, Natasha Cloud, and more to the show. A project of hers since college, Jones opened up about how she worked alongside The Players’ Tribune to develop the podcast.

“I feel like I can relate to them differently than reporters. I either have a personal connection with these people or have played against them, so there are plenty of things for us to discuss. I think the most important thing to me is just being able to grow women’s basketball,” said the California native. “I feel so many men’s basketball players have podcasts where they can freely talk. but there aren’t that many player-driven women’s basketball ones. I know these players’ stories and relate to some of them. Having a show centered on women’s basketball just gives fans more reason to want to watch our games and follow these athletes.”

Jones has a point. Lately, we’ve seen a rapid rise and consequential success of current or retired women athletes in media. For those still playing, the option to hoop overseas is no longer the sole decision to earn offseason income.

Through analyst roles, a podcast, or other broadcast mediums, athletes we’ve grown to appreciate on the hardwood are dropping gems on what it’s really like to play to a dedicated audience hanging onto every word.

As a communications graduate at Stanford, Jones credits her education and lifelong passion for thoughtful conversations as catalysts to the podcast’s success. As someone who has been the interviewee plenty of times, Jones’ main gripe from speaking with select media is surface-level inquiries.

“I just gave this really heartfelt answer, and then they’re just like, ‘OK, next question,'” she said.

With Sometimes I Hoop, listeners are promised candid discourse in a safe space where guests can freely be themselves. One of her favorite moments so far? When Flau’jae graced the show and broke into a freestyle in the middle of their chat.

“I was like, oh, let’s do this. I don’t care about the interview,” Jones said with a laugh.

With a guest lineup that rivals several long-term podcasts, Jones has had the privilege to speak with some of the best names in women’s basketball. When asked who her dream guest for Sometimes I Hoop would be, she answered without hesitation: Michelle Obama or Beyoncé.

As for who in the women’s basketball space she’s ready to share space with, Jones said 2012 WNBA champion and Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings and Minnesota Lynx legend Maya Moore are welcome any time.

You can find full episodes of Sometimes I Hoop on YouTube.

Lessons Learned

Jones finished her Atlanta Dream rookie year with averages of 3.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 14.6 minutes per game across 40 appearances. In six straight starts, the star guard averaged 6.5 points, 4.3 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.7 steals in 29.7 minutes per game.

Entering her sophomore campaign, Jones told Boardroom the changes she’s already made to ensure she returns to the court healthy and ready to bring the Dream its first league title.

“Coming off my rookie season, for the most part, I stayed in Atlanta and worked with our player development staff there because they know how I play,” she said. “We can pull up film, and talk about improving our workout and getting stronger. For my second season, I want to improve in every single thing I do. I had a pretty solid rookie year, but I’ve been working on my shot. I played predominantly point guard last year, so now I’m working on bettering my handle.

“I want to better understand what my role is going to be and figure out how I can do that to the best of my abilities and just feel better about my play. I feel like I let a lot of individual pressure and expectations I had of myself get to me. But I’ve always played best when I put the team first. From there, my individual performance starts to shine through.”

Atlanta has the 12th, 20th, and 32nd picks in this year’s WNBA Draft. As she prepares to mentor the team’s incoming rookies, Jones shared the advice she has for the Class of 2024, including some of her former teammates at Stanford.

“Just be present in what you’re doing,” Jones said. “There are a lot of eyes on every rookie class that comes in because everyone wonders how they’ll translate to the league. You have these other media obligations, and at the same time, you’re moving to a new city. So be present where you are and do not take a move for granted because rookie season goes by fast, and you’re only a rookie one time.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself because, coming from college, you’re the king of the land. But now you’re playing against the GOATS. Allow yourself time to adjust and, more importantly, have fun.”

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Vinciane Ngomsi

Vinciane Ngomsi is a Staff Writer at Boardroom. She began her career in sports journalism with bylines at SB Nation, USA Today, and most recently Yahoo. She received a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Truman State University, and when she's not watching old clips of Serena Williams' best matches, she is likely perfecting her signature chocolate chip cookie recipe or preparing a traditional Cameroonian meal.

About The Author
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi
Vinciane Ngomsi is a Staff Writer at Boardroom. She began her career in sports journalism with bylines at SB Nation, USA Today, and most recently Yahoo. She received a bachelor's degree in Political Science from Truman State University, and when she's not watching old clips of Serena Williams' best matches, she is likely perfecting her signature chocolate chip cookie recipe or preparing a traditional Cameroonian meal.