NICKERSON, Kan. (KSNW) — Ava Jones, a Kansas basketball player who was critically injured alongside her family six months ago, has signed a T-shirt deal with a sports apparel brand.
Ava’s story is one of perseverance. The Nickerson High School senior and her family were plowed over by a car on a Louisville sidewalk six months ago. It happened just two days after the blooming basketball star committed to play Big 10 basketball at the University of Iowa.
Her return to playing the game she loves will be a long journey. The University of Iowa women’s basketball program believes in Ava and has pledged to be by her side until she completes her comeback.
In the weeks after Ava signed her National Letter of Intent (NLI) with Iowa, an Iowa City sports apparel store contacted Ava and offered her a Name, Image, Likeness deal.
Wherever Ava Jones is going these days, she’s rolling in a wheelchair. It’s been just over three weeks since she had surgery to repair extensive damage to her right knee.
“The surgeon, when he was inside my knee, he found both of my meniscus’ were torn, and my MCL (medial collateral ligament) was torn too,” said Ava.
Ava says she will be allowed to start walking on Jan. 16, but not for long. Another surgery is scheduled for her left knee at the end of January.
In the meantime, the wheelchair-bound senior depends on friends and family to take her to the new Nickerson High School gymnasium to watch her teammates play as she recovers from injuries related to that devastating accident back in July in Louisville. Ava says her recovery is progressing at a slow pace.
“Yeah, it’s going slowly, but good. In PT (physical therapy), they are bending my knee as much as they can. So, that’s good,” said Ava as she sat in her wheelchair in front of the trophy cases just outside of the Panthers’ gym.
Ava says she’s amazed by the number of people out there showing support for her, like the Derby and Silver Lake girls’ basketball teams.
And now, anyone can do the same. RAYGUN, a Midwest sports apparel company with locations in Iowa City, Iowa, and Kansas City, Missouri, offered Ava a Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deal.
“When I signed (her National Letter of Intent with Iowa), someone said to them (RAYGUN), mentioned them in a tweet, and said you should get with this girl and do a deal,” explained Ava.
So, they did. RAYGUN came up with 12 shirt designs and presented them to Ava. She and her mother selected the final four: “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Believe,” “Never Give Up,” and Ava’s favorite, “It’s More Than Basketball.”
“Because it is,” Jones added.
As part of the NIL deal, Ava will receive 20% of all sales of T-shirts with her name on them. Another 10% goes to a nonprofit or charity of Ava’s choosing.
“There’s been a lot of support for these designs since we rolled them out,” said Iowa City RAYGUN store manager Joseph Heuermann. “It’s a heartbreaking story, and we’re just glad we can help out any way we can.”
Back at Nickerson High School, Ava can only watch her teammates from her wheelchair and wonder what might have been if not for the freak accident that took her father, caused her family so much pain and loss, and robbed her of one more high school basketball season.
“It is my senior year. But I’m glad that this happened now, rather than in two years when I was playing Big 10 basketball. Because now I have a goal to get back and play again,” said Ava.
You don’t have to travel to Iowa City to purchase one of Ava’s shirts. You may shop RAYGUN online to browse Ava’s shirts and many more Iowa-related shirts.