By the end of LaBrittney Jones' junior year at Cedar Hill (Texas) High School, it was clear how important she was to her basketball team.
So, Jones' coaches called her Batman.
"They said: 'It's like you're gonna be this team's hero,'" she said. "So I just took to the name. They got me bracelets and everything."
That season ended in February 2012. By July, the 6-foot-1-inch forward had already committed to the UA's 2013 recruiting class. The Wildcats, and coach Niya Butts, were the first team to recruit her. Former assistant coach Brandy Manning saw Jones play as a freshman.
The early commitment meant Jones didn't have to worry about recruiting. It proved to be good timing: Jones tore her ACL and missed her senior year. She was relegated to the training room during practice, and rehab after. During games, she sat on the bench and kept stats.
On Wednesday, almost a year after she suffered the injury, Jones worked out for the first time at McKale Center with her new team. Not that long ago, she was concerned she might never get that chance.
"I was worried," said Jones, who was rated a four-star recruit, 23rd-best forward and 87th-best overall player by ESPN. "I was like 'Oh my god, they're not gonna want me anymore.' "
"I called Coach Butts right away and she said, 'We still want you.'"
Butts said she never wavered.
"One thing we want everyone to know is that we stand behind our commitments, we stand behind our players, as long as you do everything you possibly can to help our program," she said. "And she's willing to work, she's committed, and she's gonna be a big part of what we do. We want her 100 percent."
Jones isn't quite there yet but said she will be when the season starts in November.
The Star sat down with Jones on Wednesday. Here's what she said.
Why did you pick Arizona, and why so early in the process?
A: "Well, they were the first school to actually recruit me, my freshman year of high school, so I got the offer. But I just really liked it when I came for the unofficial visit, and the atmosphere really takes you, so Arizona was it. Coach Manning called me first time, and he had seen me play, and he said he had to go back and tell Coach Butts, then she was interested in me so it worked from there."
What was it about Coach Butts that you liked?
A: "She was great. I like her passion for basketball, and I have that same passion. I really wanted to play for someone that had that same passion for basketball as I do."
How would you describe your skill set?
A: "My skill set, I feel like I'm a great rebounder, and I work hard, and I feel like that's going to help me a lot. Rebounding is a natural skill for me; most people have to work to really try to do it. I have a knack for the ball, so it's kinda easy. I just grew up naturally good at it."
How much did you know about Arizona before you committed?
A: "I didn't know too much about it so this past season I just tried to catch some of the games on TV and stuff. So I just know Davellyn (Whyte) was the biggest person on the team."
You were a captain the last three years in high school, and now that Davellyn is gone (playing for the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars), there might even be a leadership role available on this team. Do you think that you can fill that void?
A: "Yes, I really do. I feel like I can be a leader for this team, even this year as a freshman I feel like I can have a leadership role. I feel like I can fill that role; it's about working hard."
Contact reporter Zack Rosenblatt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4145. On Twitter @zackblatt