ZH: When did you first start playing basketball and what other sports did you try? At what age did you realize your future was in playing hoops?
RJ: I started playing basketball, soccer, and baseball when I was in the first grade. After the fifth grade I started playing for Spokane Sliders (softball). I realized in about the eighth grade that basketball was going to be my future/passion because of an older man who told me that I played like [Charles] Barkley, and at the time Barkley was one of my favorite players. It encouraged me to work harder and be a better ball player.
ZH: Tell us about your career at Central Valley High School, plus with the Spokane Stars AAU team?
RJ: My career at CV went well. My junior year was the big stepping stone for our team. We ended up winning state my senior year and I was picked MVP of the tournament. So that was a great accomplishment. Playing for the Spokane Stars was great. Juliann Laney and I were the leaders of the group and we did pretty well. Going into my senior year, that summer, we went to Colorodo Springs, where we took second at the BCI tournament and Laney and I both recieved all tournment.
ZH: Describe your recruitment and how and why Gonzaga became your choice. Was it an easy decision, or hard?
RJ: [Head Coach Kelly] Graves recruited me when I was playing for the Spokane Stars in Colorodo Springs in the BCI tournament. I chose Gonzaga because of Kelly Graves, and his career as a head coach. Everywhere Kelly went he brought the program to another level and I wanted to be a part of that. It was a very easy decision for me. Great coach and being close to home for my family to watch was a big plus in choosing Gonzaga.
ZH: Each year since you arrived at Gonzaga the team has done better and better, just missing the NCAA's last year. Can you elaborate on just why there has been such improvement?
RJ: Whenever you bring new players together, at the beginning of any new team, there is going to be confusion, frustration on how your other teammates play. After so long you get to know what your teammates can and can not do, and what they're going to do. Working well as a unit, playing together and being such a close team, I think is the reason our success has increased every year. Our coaching staff also does such a great job recruiting, bringing in girls who will fit in with us and and are program.
ZH: Tell us what you have been doing to get ready for your senior season. Word is you've been taking on former WNBA'er Stacey Clinesmith lately?
RJ: [Laughs] Yes, that is the word around town! I go play against Stacey twice a week. We play fives, but she still makes me guard her. Which is terrific. There is no better way to get better then playing against someone who is twice as good as you. I actually can keep up with her for a little bit. I can guard her pretty well, but I think she secretly takes it easy on me sometimes because when she wants to score, she scores! Getting ready for my senior year, I've been shooting a lot and working on a quicker release from my shot, and also taking it to the basket more. That is going to be a real emphasis this year for me - driving more and creating.
ZH: Well, here it is, your final year as a Zag. What are your goals and what are the team's goals? And will you, Ashley Burke and Shannon
Mathews assume the leadership roles as seniors?
RJ: My number one goal this year is to play every game like it is my last. I am going to do anything to help us win. I never care(d) about my personal stats, well maybe rebounds, but I just want to play hard, go out and give it everything I have. Our team goals are to win the WCC and go to the NCAA's. Ashley Burke and Shannon Mathews will definetley take the leadership roles this year. In my case I'm more of a silent leader. Sometimes I can be vocal, but I would rather show my leadership through how hard I play.
ZH: Every time we see you play, it seems like you are almost an enforcer out there. Have you always been a physical player who doesn't back down from anybody? Can you describe your attitude during the heat of battle?
RJ: Since I can remember, I have always been a physical player. I think it had a lot to do with growing up with two older brothers. They taught me not to be a wuss and be tough. Because if I ever wanted to play their games, I had to be! My attitude on the court...you never know how that's going to be! It all depend on the situation, really. I will admit I am a very mental player. But, I think a lot of people confuse my attitude with frustration. I hate to lose and I am a very intense player, so if we are not playing well, I am frustrated, only because I want to do eveything in my power for us to get back the lead and win.
ZH: What are you majoring in and do you have any ideas of what you'd like to do after you graduate?
RJ: I am majoring in Sociology and minoring in Sports Management. Depending on how well this year goes for me, I would like to see if maybe I could go overseas and play. But if that does not work out, I would love to get a job as a counselor at a high school because I love kids, and then I could also help coach sports.
ZH: What are the things you'll take away from Gonzaga when you leave, and what are the qualities you've learned from the school and Kelly Graves and his staff?
RJ: Gonzaga is a terrific school. It has made me into a more well rounded educated individual. I have learned many qualities from our coaching staff, not just about basketball, but them teaching us that this is a business, and the proper ways to act in such situations. I will have many memories coming out of Gonzaga. But I think the number one thing I can take from everything, all my experiences, coaches, and the school, is, if you want something, do not let anyone stand in your way. Work as hard and as long as you can, and you'll achieve something from it. Even though you might not see it at first, it will soon create into something bigger and better then you ever wanted.
ZH: Tell us about the Jewell family and what your family has meant to you as you've played near them in high school and college.
RJ: My family means the absolute world to me. Ever since I was little, my parents, if even one of them, has been at my games. Having them able to watch me in high school and in college is one of the greatest things to have. I couldn't imagine not having my parents there. Even though they are not at every game, when I see them at our home games, it makes me want to play that much harder for them. They have supported me from Day One, with everything throughout my life, and I appreciate everything that they have done for me. It's kind of crazy, when you leave home and move out, you don't realize how much more your parents mean to you then when you were living with them. My mother actually told me the other day how sad she's going to be when I'm done playing. It meant a lot to me when she said that because it makes me happy that they enjoy coming and watching me play still, after all these years.