Motivated on and off the court, Jones brings a new energy
Sam Tapper — Sports Writer
On the court, he is a big man — a presence in the paint. Off the court, he is a student who takes pride in his academics. Regardless of where he is, men’s basketball forward Greg Jones comes to the university bringing energy and motivation.
Jones hails from the Bronx, N.Y., growing up on Taylor Avenue on the eastern side of the borough. Jones describes himself as “family oriented,” and while he credits his mother for serving as a “huge inspiration” to keep going and get better every day, it was his dad who originally helped him get started with basketball.
“Basketball started for me in eighth grade when my dad came home from jail,” Jones said. “Before that I was mainly an artist — I could draw. I used to draw and be in my books a lot, but he came home and saw I was 6’2 in eighth grade, so that’s when I started basketball, mainly — eighth grade.”
Even though Jones was just wrapping up middle school at the time, he said his dad saw something in him from early on. From that point, Jones committed to the sport and followed the instruction of his dad to try to improve hid skills and get to the next level.
“Mainly he told me, ‘it’s your basketball, don’t let anybody take it from you,’” said Jones. “Every rebound, every time somebody took the ball, [he told me to] go get it. So, I always took that with me.”
Once Jones got started with basketball, he did not look back. He attended high school at John Marshall in Richmond, Va. In his four years there, Jones helped his team capture a state championship and three conference titles, in addition to being named player of the year in his senior year. In addition to basketball, Jones said he played baseball, football and volleyball while also being a member of the National Honor Society. Upon graduation, Jones was named the salutatorian of his graduating class.
“What I like most about him is that he’s a good student,” said head coach Scott Burrell. “You don’t have to worry about him in the classroom. He knows when to enjoy life but he’s going to worry about taking care of his academics number one, which is awesome.”
Once high school had come and gone, Jones had 21 scholarship offers by graduation. He originally elected to play collegiate ball at Division I James Madison University in Harrisburg, Va., rather than coming back home to the northeast.
After averaging 2.2 points per game and 2.5 rebounds per game through 64 games in two years at JMU, Jones elected to put his name into the transfer wire, ultimately ending up as a Southern Owl, and in just his first year, he has been named a captain.
“Me and the coaches [at James Madison] had a different understanding of where they wanted to take my career,” Jones said. “So, we both decided mutually it was best to go our separate ways, but I chose Southern because of Scott Burrell and his past history of where he played, where he comes from, and I knew it was a winning environment, and my brother Levar Allen came from Richmond as well, we played in high school for numerous years, so I knew we would have chemistry right away.”
For Jones, playing for Burrell serves as extra motivation. Jones and Burrell are both roughly 6’7, were both forwards in their basketball careers and both played football and baseball, as well.
Burrell also won an NBA championship with Michael Jordan, and, though Jones may not have that same level of opportunity per se, he says he tries to emulate Burrell’s teachings to better himself.
“It makes the game a lot easier,” Jones said, “because you know where to get the ball and where he was effective, so I know I can also be effective, and his play style is spread out. He’s not limiting me to be inside or outside; I can play freely.”
Burrell said he describes Jones as “a competitor,” and noted that it was his competitive nature and his toughness that he saw early on that could benefit his team. This year, Burrell boasts a lineup of two 6’7 big men upfront as Jones joins senior and fellowcaptain Taurus Adams II.
“It takes a lot of pressure off of me,” Adams said, “not having to worry about getting every rebound; I know he’s going to help me box out. If I get beat, he’ll be there to help. It’s just great having him here.”
Through the first three games this year, Jones has averaged eight points, four rebounds and two blocks per game in about 24 minutes of action a night. Though he has much more work ahead of him, Jones says he is ready for a big season on and off the court.
“I’m hungry as ever; it’s time to go,” said Jones. “I’m working towards Dean’s List – straight A’s for one, and we’ve got to win the conference and then get that national championship.”