love of basketball, importance of family
leads impact transfer Jalen Jones to Aggieland
by Dini Susanto '15
12th Man Productions
As he cooled down after an afternoon practice session, Jalen Jones sat back pensively, letting in an incoming stream of cool air and reflective thoughts.
"I really was thinking about going far away," said the SMU transfer and Dallas native. "But when there's so much love right down the street, why go [any farther]?"
The 6-foot-7 guard/forward, a former standout on the Mustangs' roster, was already leading the team in scoring and rebounding by his sophomore year. After his second season, he decided to exchange his red, white and blue jersey for a maroon and white one and joined Texas A&M’s program just down the highway--a small move toward big possibilities.
"A&M just showed me a lot of love when I was transferring," explained Jones, who was motivated by the coaches' efforts to help him work through the NCAA’s policies regarding transfers and clear him to play for his new team as soon as possible.
"The staff we have right now is tremendous - I love them."
Going into the season, Jones will be working with a different staff than when he arrived just in January, following the program's recent overhaul--a change he has learned to welcome as an unexpected yet exciting opportunity to collaborate with new people who bring new ideas.
"Coach Stansbury is a legend at this--he's been at it for a while--and he's done terrific things at Mississippi State. Coach Amir is young and energetic; if you have any type of problems, at his age, he can pretty much relate to you. Coach Cole spent a lot of time with me in the spring helping me improve," Jones said of his new coaches.
As for the two veteran coaches, both of whom were main actors in his recruitment, Jones described Kyle Keller as a great recruiter and fourth-year head man Billy Kennedy as a motivator.
"[Coach Kennedy is] a believer, and he believes in what he does."
"One thing I've really learned from the coaches at this point is the mindset of doing something right and doing it to the best of your abilities, day in and day out. Throughout the waves, throughout going to class and going to study hall--there are going to be things you might not want to do, but you've got to do it in order to succeed."
Also helping ease the process of transitioning to his new alma mater are his teammates, who Jones already considers his brothers.
"When I first got here, they welcomed me with open arms and showed me around campus and they showed me the ropes. This is a well-rounded team made up of a bunch of humble guys who really like being around each other."
Add to that the other half of his Aggieland experience: the students and the campus they love.
"College Station has been really nice. The fans really show athletes a lot of love. [In school], you get a lot of academic support. The whole staff just does a great job of talking with us, telling us what we need to do to get better and to stay focused.”
As he enters his junior year this fall, he will continue on his track toward a degree in Ag Leadership with minors in sociology and sports management.
Underlying all the love from the coaches, teammates and fans--the components that make Aggie Basketball what it is--is love for the sport.
After a semester spent on the sidelines, Jones said he is ultimately looking forward to simply getting back on the hardwood and do what he came to do: to play basketball and to win.
"I feel like it's been so long and I miss playing in a real live game. I've been doing this since I was young, so sitting out was tough.”
"My dad put a basketball in my hands when I was really young, and I basically grew up with it. I always had a little Fisher-Price goal, shooting at it in my diapers."
Perhaps what makes his long-cultivated passion for basketball so strong is its sentimental foundation, rooted in the one-of-a-kind relationship he developed with his dad, who served in the U.S. Army.
"[My dad] was gone a lot, off at the war, but anytime he was home, we would go out to the courts and play one-on-one and shoot around, and he would always give me tips on what I need to work on.”
As an "Army brat," the Dallas native was actually born in California and, in addition to Texas, has lived in Kentucky, Georgia, Alaska and Germany.
Through the many places and faces, basketball was one aspect of his life that never changed.
"I moved from different city to different city because of the Army, and I continued to play and play, and now I'm here, in Division I, playing in college.”
He wasn't the first of the Jones family to take sports seriously. His uncle and father played college basketball for Belhaven and Prairie View A&M, respectively, and his younger sister currently plays volleyball in high school.
"My family just breathes sports."
Ideally, Jones would have selected No. 21, which he previously wore at SMU in honor of his dad's old jersey. But as the number is currently being worn by teammate Alex Caruso, Jones now sports a No. 12 for Texas A&M with hopes of continuing what may well become a future family tradition.
"It's close enough. Hopefully, if I have a son one day, he could wear the number 21 as well," he laughed.
"For now, I just want to continue to work at it each day and make [my family] proud.
“And for everyone to come out to Texas A&M basketball games. Because we'll be looking to put on a show."