NICKERSON, KANSAS — For the first time in six months, Ava Jones was back where she belonged on Tuesday night – on the floor with her teammates at Nickerson High School with a packed home crowd cheering her on. Jones, still wearing a heavy brace on her right knee, scored the opening basket of the game – her first in competition since the crash that killed her father, severely injured her mother and likely ended her basketball playing career.

Jones had committed to play for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes just days before playing in an AAU tournament in St. Louis in July 2022. Jones and her family were walking along a street when an impaired driver left the road and crashed into them on the sidewalk. Trey Jones, Ava’s father, died from his injuries. Her mother suffered severe injuries. Ava was left with serious injuries – including tearing four ligaments in her knee. Her basketball career, doctors tell her, is likely over.

But for one night and one play, Ava proved them wrong on Tuesday. In a move arranged beforehand with opponent Halstead High School, Nickerson High won the opening tip unopposed then passed the ball around the floor and down low to Jones who was standing under the hoop. A simple left-handed layup and the crowd erupted.

Despite knowing that Jones likely won’t ever play for them, the University of Iowa and head coach Lisa Bluder still plan to honor Ava’s scholarship.