A new coach will take the reins of the E.C. Glass girls basketball team, a program in the midst of a revival that has vaulted the Hilltoppers to the top of the Seminole District. Cedric Jones, an assistant with the squad during that span, has been named head coach.
“He was a shoo-in,” Glass athletic director Elizabeth Masencup said of Jones, who ascends the coaching ranks at the midtown school after spending two years as an assistant under Anitra Thomas.
Thomas left following the 2021 season to become an assistant coach with the University of Lynchburg women’s basketball program.
According to Jones, 37, taking over the Glass program fulfills one of his dreams. A 2003 graduate of E.C. Glass, Jones said the school has “always been home,” and he’d hoped for years to be given the responsibility of leading either the boys or girls basketball programs.
Jones brings familiarity with the area basketball scene to his new post, which comes from both his time on the Hilltoppers’ sideline and leading other area programs. Before teaming up with Thomas at Glass, he was head coach of the William Campbell girls team for two years.
Jones — who played basketball and football during his high school days — also coached the boys team at Linkhorne Middle before leading a high school team; many of the boys on that team now play for the Glass varsity team, he added.
The new Hilltoppers girls head coach arrived at E.C. Glass for the 2019-20 season, teaming with Thomas after the two had spent years together working camps that aided in the development of young area players.
“I looked at it as an opportunity to come home,” Jones said of his decision to leave Campbell for Glass at the time. “Just knew I wanted to be part of Glass basketball.”
Thomas, Jones and the Hilltoppers rapidly reversed the course of a program that had posted just one winning season during the previous decade. The ’Toppers went seven straight years without reaching the .500 mark during that span.
Then in the 2019-20 season, they went 22-5 and reached the state tournament for just the second time in program history. During a campaign shortened and unexpectedly ended early by COVID-19 in 2021, Thomas and Jones helped the Hilltoppers to an 8-0 record.
“We changed the culture of E.C. Glass girls basketball,” Jones said.
Masencup said Jones’ commitment to and experience with the program through those years made him the smart choice for the head coach position.
“When you’ve already got something invested in it … that’s really helpful,” she said. “It keeps the zest there to want to keep striving.”
Masencup also praised Glass’ newest head coach for a passion for the game he balances with “an ability to be calm, cool and collected.”
Jones aims now to help his team continue its current trajectory, with experienced guards Jeriyah Osborne and Jamiyah Henry leading a group of players who have chemistry on their side. Many of the athletes have been playing together for years, Jones said.
His team will play the same style of swarming defense it has for the past two years, which has doomed opponents. The Hilltoppers’ full-court press has led to turnovers galore and easy scoring opportunities.
Jones also said his goal is to continue encouraging players to be a “better teammate, better person or better student.”
“Every day you’ve got a chance to be better,” he said.