Kevin Jones has been in this situation before. A different time, a different place, but the objective is the same. Ten years later, he still wants to prove he belongs.
As a freshman, making the varsity team at Mount Vernon High School in New York was considered a longshot for Jones. Few ninth graders made the squad in general, and there wasn’t much buzz surrounding him leading up to tryouts.
Barely a teenager, Jones believed he was good enough to battle against the upper classmen. The coach saw it, too. Following a hard-fought competition, Jones earned a place on varsity.
“Nobody was really sure of my talent and where I could take basketball,” he told Basketball Insiders. “That’s when I knew I had talent to play at the next level.”
While at Mount Vernon, he was a driving force behind consecutive state championships. He moved on to play college basketball at West Virginia University where he was named to the All-Big East First Team as a senior. That year he led the Big East in scoring and rebounding.
In spite of his collegiate accolades, Jones went undrafted in 2012. Just as he did his freshman year of high school, he has been trying to show he can compete at the next level since then.
Over the years the 6’8, 251-pound forward has had spurts with the Cleveland Cavaliers and their NBA Development League affiliate, the Canton Charge. In 2014 he was named to the D-League All-Star Game and then signed with San Miguel Beermen in the Philippines.
Last offseason he gave the NBA another go on the Indiana Pacers Summer League team. That performance led to a contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, but he was waived before the start of the regular season. In February he signed with another international team, Cholet Basket in France.
“Being away from family in another country, it’s difficult,” he said.
With his sights set on the NBA, Jones played for the Milwaukee Bucks at the Las Vegas Summer League last month. He posted 13.3 points and 7.2 rebounds (second on the team). In the final three games he averaged 18.0 points and 8.0 boards. Jones noted he continues to work on his defense and the consistency of his jumpshot.
“I’ve been improving by knowing the game, slowing down and maturing as a player, knowing how to handle different situations,” he said. “If I get picked up by a team, I think I can bring hustle, [be a] team-first kind of guy and an energy kind of guy.”
Jones still remembers what it took to surpass expectations and earn a spot on the varsity team his freshman year of high school. Now an adult, he is putting forth the same effort to turn heads and land a place on an NBA roster.
“It’s just me still trying to prove myself,” he said. “Some people may have doubt of what I can and can’t do, but I’m trying to show I improve on my game every year and play hard.”
From Summer League to NBA Contract
A strong NBA Summer League outing can lead to an NBA contract. Take a look at some undrafted players who participated in 2015 action and have inked a deal with a team for next season:
Cliff Alexander: Portland Trail Blazers
Brandon Ashley: Dallas Mavericks
Duje Dukan: Sacramento Kings
Treveon Graham: Utah Jazz
Jonathan Holmes: Los Angeles Lakers
Maurice Ndour: Dallas Mavericks
Terran Petteway: Atlanta Hawks
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