Connecticut Sun center Jonquel Jones, left, and Dallas Wings center Kristine Anigwe dive to the floor after a loose ball during a WNBA basketball game Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)
Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones spent a few hours Wednesday night playing basketball, the rest of this week her focus has been on family and friends in her native Bahamas and the destruction from Hurricane Dorian
Jones has not been able to talk to her parents for three days, but has been in contact with other relatives and believes all of her family is safe. The stories they have told her, she said, of water rising to the ceiling in some apartments and utter devastation across the archipelago, have been heart-breaking.
"Talking to my sister today, I literally spoke to her before the game and they were walking through waist-deep water and stuff like this," she said. "It flooded areas that we've never seen flooded before. I knew numerous people who were in situations where they had to be evacuated. So we're just hoping for the best right now and just trying to help."
Jones has set up a page on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe, hoping to raise $50,000 for the archipelago. She donated $10,000 and the page had just over $23,500 in donations by Wednesday night.
She said she and the other organizers of the crowdfunding page are still deciding which relief organizations will receive the funds, but she vowed to make sure all of the money got to people in need.
Jones moved to Maryland at 14 to pursue basketball in the United States. She recently wrote about her experiences as a child in the Bahamas for The Players Tribune, including having the roof of her home peeled back by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and returning from a shelter to find fish swimming in her living room.
"The thing I'll never forget is trying to dry off our family photo albums, wiping away the water from the Kodak prints," she wrote. "And for a minute, it worked — and you could see all these memories again. And then the image would slowly fade to black. We lost years of our history as a family, and that's why I work so hard to really remember things how they were, because that's all we got now."
Jones scored 22 points on Wednesday, leading the Sun to a 102-72 rout of the Dallas Wings, a win that secured Connecticut a double bye into the WNBA semifinals. All cash sales from the Sun's first playoff game on Sept. 17 will benefit victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. The non-profit will be selected at the conclusion of the WNBA season.
Sun coach Curt Miller, who donated $250 to the Jones' GoFundMe page, didn't take her out of the game until the end of the third quarter. That was in part, he said, to keep her mind occupied on something other than the hurricane.
"I think it is a good distraction somewhat for JJ to go play basketball for a few hours a day," he said. "Because if not, it's understandable that you're constantly on the phone with people, you're constantly watching the weather reports and the news coverage on it and that can get overwhelming."
Jones' GoFundMe video and a link to the page were displayed on the video board during the game.
Teammates, including Jasmine Thomas ($500), Morgan Tuck ($200) and Layshia Clarendon ($200) were listed on the donation page, along with other WNBA players, such as Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, who gave $1,000.
Jones is not the only Bahamian athlete raising money. Buddy Hield of the NBA's Sacramento Kings, who played youth basketball with Jones and is a good friend, set up a separate GoFundme page. He said he would be donating $100,000 toward relief efforts.
"All of us have been blessed to be in situations where we can give back," Jones said. "God put me in a situation now where I can reach back and help my communities. If we do nothing, then we're definitely taking what we've been given and what we've worked hard for, for granted."