Almost a month ago, Arizona women's basketball head coach Adia Barnes said that she was looking for one or two more players to add to the team for next season, but they had to be the right players. At the time, everyone expected the additional players to come from the transfer portal. Instead, Barnes landed one of the best players still available in the 2023 recruiting class when she got the commitment of 6-foot wing Skylar Jones.
“I wasn’t finding what exactly I was looking for [in the portal],” Barnes said. “I didn’t think that we really had a shot with Skylar just because it’s far. I don’t recruit a whole lot of Chicago just because you have distance and there’s so many places on the way here....so to get her was a really big thing for us.”
Jones became the fourth ESPN HoopGurlz top 100 player to sign with the Wildcats for 2023. The 96th-ranked player joins No. 8 Montaya Dew, No. 14 Breya Cunningham, and No. 21 Jada Williams. The class was ranked No. 3 on signing day in November 2022, long before the addition of yet another top 100 recruit.
Like Paris Clark last year, Jones is a late addition to the class after decommitting from another school. In the case of Clark, it appeared fairly obvious why she decommitted from UCLA. She left the Bruins’ 2022 class shortly after No. 2 overall recruit Kiki Rice pledged to head coach Cori Close.
It’s not quite as obvious with Jones. She was one of the crown jewels of the 2023 Missouri recruiting class. Columbia is also a good deal closer to her home in the Chicago area than Tucson is. While Barnes didn’t think she had a chance of luring the talented young wing out West, Arizona’s head coach has always been up for a challenge.
“When I saw she was available, I probably called her within a couple hours...because I was like, ‘Oh, wow!’” Barnes said. “I figured she knew where she was going, but she didn’t.”
Getting her wasn’t easy. It was a big commitment from Jones and her family even to see the campus. Because she’s not a transfer, she didn’t get a new set of visits. She had used all five of her visits earlier in her recruitment.
This time around, Jones was considering Arizona and two other schools. She had already taken official visits to two of them during her initial recruitment. She could not take an official visit to Tucson, but that didn’t stop her family. They decided they would finance an unofficial visit.
“They spent thousands to come here,” Barnes said.
Jones and her family visited before the no contact period started and then went home. When players and coaches could contact each other after May 14, it was official. Jones was in the fold, providing skill at a position of need.
“I love the fact she can shoot the three,” Barnes said. “I love the fact that she’s a lefty. She’s really athletic. She can get to the rim really well. And she’s a smart player, a smart kid. Really high IQ off the court and then on the court...[C]an play the wing positions for us because our twos and threes are pretty interchangeable. And I love the fact that later on her and Montaya [Dew]...at the wings, we’re a really big team with size.”
Barnes was attracted by the fact that Jones comes from a high school that focuses on both academics and athletics, doing both at a high level. In 2022, US News & World Report ranked Whitney Young Magnet High School as the No. 4 high school in Illinois and the 67th-best in the country. In 2020, the school was named a blue ribbon school by the U.S. Department of Education. In her interviews prior to selecting a college, Jones stressed several times that she was looking for a combination of strong athletics and academics for college.
Barnes is also secure in the athletic preparation Jones had with the Mac Irvin Fire travel team.
“First of all, she’s in a really high academic high school that’s known for winning championships in Chicago,” Barnes said. “I know she’s coached really well at that school. And I know her AAU coach really well, because I had a player years ago from him and I’ve just had a relationship with him for a long time.”
The combination suggests that Jones is a player that is used to working hard both on the court and off. It’s something Barnes has stressed the last few years. The desire to work and play hard is the most important thing a player can bring to Arizona. She thinks she found that in Jones.