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    Wednesday, December 07, 2022

    Who's that with Jonquel Jones? It's Jake From State Farm

    Mohegan — Fame normally accompanies the athlete for triumphs within his or her vocation, which, applied to Jonquel Jones, should translate to the WNBA Most Valuable Player Award she earned in 2021.

    Ah, but here in the roaring 2000s, where fame (and everything else) feels relative, can even 19.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game compare to starring alongside Jake From State Farm in a commercial?

    All hail J.J., the Connecticut Sun's affable 6-foot-6 center, who used her 6 o'clock like frame to fit perfectly into State Farm's latest dispatch. Jones' first career commercial arises in what looks like a wholesale retail warehouse with Jake From State Farm, Trae Young, the 6-1 guard of the Atlanta Hawks and Boban Marjanovic, the 7-4 center of the Dallas Mavericks.

    It goes thusly:

    Trae: "A lot of people assume NBA Players can reach anything."

    Jake: "Just like they assume they can't afford great insurance. But State Farm has rates that can fit any budget."

    Young reaches for a jar of pickles on the top shelf, but isn't tall enough. Enter Jones, who reaches, grabs the pickles and goes, "here you go." Young, with a look that's half dispassionate and half sheepish, says, "thanks Jonquel."

    Then Jones reaches for mustard on the top shelf, but isn't tall enough. Boban, who has done other amusing State Farm commercials, emerges, grabs the mustard and says, "here's your mustard" in his endearing Eastern European accent. Jones says matter-of-factly, "Thanks Boban."

    Boban says, "Do you need to reach anything else? Because I can reach it." Jones goes, "no" and they all go about their shopping.

    Jake says, "For surprisingly great rates that fit any budget, like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." Cue the State Farm jingle.

    And a star is born.

    "I laughed a few times when we were shooting it," Jones said last week after a Sun practice. "Like when Trae said 'thanks Jonquel.' I was laughing at how his face looked. Boban couldn't remember his lines, which were like super easy, so we were laughing at that, too. We had a good time for sure. But I got into my acting mode pretty quickly."

    Jones said she shot the commercial last season. The Sun played a matinee game at home, after which she drove to New York and took a direct flight to Los Angeles, where the commercial was filmed at a makeshift candle-making facility made to look like a warehouse.

    "We shot for a whole day," Jones said. "I left that night around six to get back to Connecticut. Curt (Sun coach Curt Miller) was nice enough to give me the next day off."

    Fact of the commercial-making business: Lots of takes for 30 seconds of entertainment.

    "You shoot the same thing so many different times," Jones said. "Like the way you reached for the mustard, the way you reached for the pickles, how you turn to the camera. The angles. The different ways you say certain things to get the take they want. There's so many other takes that go into actually making a whole commercial. I have a lot of appreciation and respect for commercials now."

    The ad gets high marks for amusement. But layered within the chuckles comes great significance to the WNBA and the women's sports movement. Not everybody watches women's basketball. But State Farm commercials have turned Jake From State Farm into a national icon, while affording public different sides of Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Chris Paul and others. Now they know Jonquel Jones, too.

    Consider, too, that Jones is the most athletically accomplished — but least known — member of the aforementioned commercial.

    "It just shows that women are like less likely to be seen and less likely to really be paid for or given the recognition they deserve," Jones said. "But as our league grows, I do feel like it's trending in the right direction. I'm excited to see 10 years down the road what the WNBA MVP is doing, or some of the more noteworthy players in the league. Ultimately, we get to the point where everybody in the league has those type of opportunities."

    And who's to say that Jones, the size of whose personality mirrors her game, hasn't discovered a second career?

    "I remember the producer and the director thought I had taken acting classes," Jones said. "I know it's a very small commercial so you guys didn't get to see some of the other things I did. But they were like, 'oh, wow, we could use you in some other stuff.' I'm down because I love it. But it takes a lot of patience."

    It's good to be J.J. these days. She is the centerpiece on a team that should contend again this season. But even better, her commercial will be seen repeatedly during the NBA playoffs. As the other J.J. liked to say back in the day: dy-no-mite.

    "I've seen it so many times now. We had a little team get together and we saw it and everybody went crazy," Jones said. "It's heartwarming. For what I've done on the court, I do feel like sometimes the endorsement opportunities aren't there. It's more of a popularity contest versus an accomplishment for the caliber of player you are on the women's side. But I do genuinely appreciate the opportunities."

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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