Oct. 15, 2001
As the Santa Clara men's basketball team worked on the intricacies of the flex offense, Brian Jones sat behind the west basket, seven rows above the floor, reflecting on the past and pondering his future.
"I remember when I was in that position, being excited to start practice. It seemed like the season was far away, but it creeps up on you. It all starts with that first practice."
After not being invited to pre-draft camps in Portsmouth, Phoenix and Chicago, Jones was not drafted by the NBA and later turned down a guarantee for significant money in Italy. On October 25th, he'll leave for the Winners Circle Sports Academy in Suwanee, Georgia, 30 miles north of Atlanta. The journey begins with a tryout for NBA Developmental League and, hopefully, a chance to fulfill a dream.
"It was a tough decision because the money was pretty good for someone in the first year out of college. I had to talk to guys in the league a lot and waited until the last minute to do what was right for me. I figured it would give me the best exposure and best shot to get into the NBA."
Tryouts start on the 27th and the league will conduct its draft on Halloween. Then there will be two scrimmages before training camp begins on November 3rd. Like other times in his career, it's a chance to prove others wrong.
"That drives me because I didn't feel like I got a chance to prove I could play against the best players in the country. I know there wasn't a point guard that was invited who had a total career like I did. I am a competitor. When people see me play, they will see that. I will show people why I should have been in those camps with a chance at being drafted."
Jones has been living with a personal trainer in El Cerrito since graduation to get ready for his biggest challenge since a devastating knee injury his sophomore year nearly ended his career. His day starts with 10 a.m. workouts at Contra Costa College, focusing on ball handling, shooting, defense and full-court drills. At noon, it's pool work at Magic Johnson's 24-Hour Fitness in Richmond, followed by the first of two weight lifting sessions.
"I think people are going to be surprised at my explosiveness. I am quicker now pushing the ball up the court, especially with the new 8 second rule (teams have 8 seconds to get the ball across midcourt instead of 10 seconds). I know people have doubted my shot. It's an area I've worked on quite a bit. A lot of that comes from leg strength which I don't think I got all the way back at Santa Clara."
After an All-West Coast Conference sophomore year, Jones practically destroyed his right knee playing in a summer league game on June 28, 1998. During the year away from the game, he saw a sports psychologist to overcome the fears and doubts he had. He helplessly watched his team fall in the championship game in street clothes his redshirt year and came back for 2 more all-league seasons.
BJ's former coach has had confidence in him from the day he made him the Broncos starting point guard as a freshman, a feeling that's never wavered.
"I am not an expert on the NBA," says Dick Davey. "But I do think he's a young man who is absolutely guaranteed in the NBA once he gets picked up by somebody. From my perspective, you have to be physical, intelligent and competitive. Brian has all those qualities. There is nobody I know that does that like he does on both ends of the court. He's now 100 percent fully recovered from his injury and strong as a bull. My hope is when the holes appear on the rosters, they'll see his capabilities. Somebody is going to get lucky."