RICEBORO, Ga. (WSAV) – She rewrote the record books at Bradwell Institute, but Delisha Milton-Jones’ true start to her storied career happened in her hometown of Riceboro, Georgia.
“Those are my roots and my roots run deep,” Milton-Jones explained. She had to grow up fast, playing basketball in the backyard against her cousins, most of whom were boys.
“I would get in fights or I would come in the house crying and my uncles would send me right back out,” Milton-Jones remembered. “They would say ‘hey, don’t come in here crying. You find a way to beat them.'”
The tough love seems to have worked out just fine.
Milton-Jones went from the makeshift basketball court in southeast Georgia to the Olympic podium as a member of the 2000 and 2008 United States women’s basketball gold medal teams.
“I definitely get goosebumps thinking about it every single time,” Milton-Jones said.
Despite being raised in a town of less than a thousand people, Milton-Jones was no stranger to the big moment. Before her time at the Olympics and the four years at the University of Florida, Milton-Jones experienced the Bradwell Institute – Liberty County rivalry firsthand.
“We wanted to make sure they knew that we were the team to beat,” Milton-Jones recalled with a smile. “They were the newcomers and they were like the little sister or little brother.”
The former Tigers star and two-time Naismith Award winner got her fill of heated competition in high school, but nothing could have fully prepared her for the pressure she’d face as a member of Team USA.
“We would go to different countries, hostile environments, and we considered ourselves soldiers,” Milton-Jones explained. “I wanted to represent my country through my play and I felt like that was the most patriotic thing I could do because this game has given me so much.”
In the next stage of her career, she’s decided to give back the only way she knows how.
“I have the experiences that most coaches haven’t even dreamt of,” Milton-Jones, now a head coach for the Old Dominion women’s basketball team, said. “I use that to my full advantage every single day when I’m trying to impart wisdom and empower these young women that are the future generations for women’s basketball.”
As she enters her third season leading the Monarchs, Milton-Jones says she will never forget her time with Team USA and, of course, her childhood in southeast Georgia.
“It wasn’t about me representing me or just my country. It was about me representing Riceboro, Georgia and Bradwell Institute and everyone that propelled me to greatness.”