Jones vs the Victoria Vikes at the 2015 CIS Final 8 National Championship
By Charles Vanegas for On Point Basketball
In March, Ryerson point guard Jahmal Jones capped off a five-year career, in which the team improved its win total every season (11-11 in 2010-11 to 17-2 in 2014-15), with a bronze medal at the CIS Final 8 National Championship. Graduating with a degree in business technology management, he leaves the Rams as the program’s all-time leader in assists (452) and steals (194) and second in points (1,773, behind Boris Bakovic’s 2,068). He recently signed his first professional contract with Tuři Svitavy of the Czech Republic National Basketball League (NBL). He spoke to On Point’s Charles Vanegas about what he thinks his Ryerson legacy is, his experience playing in South Korea and how he’s approaching the next chapter of his career.
Now that you’ve had some time after the season to look back, what would you say your legacy at Ryerson is?
I really couldn’t say myself, but I guess if I needed to answer that question… like personally — and I don’t want to sound cocky — it was what I worked to become. I made sure I was different from all my friends, different from all my family members, different from everybody I knew. …My work ethic speaks for itself. I’m just thankful to have been in a situation where people trusted me, gave me the keys to drive the car. It got me to where I am —breaking, setting records for Ryerson.
You, along with teammates Aaron Best and Adika Peter-McNeilly, made the Canadian FISU team. What was the reaction after that announcement, knowing it could be last time the three of you would play together?
We didn’t talk about anything. It just shows that we were one of the best backcourts in the league at that time. We always thought that we were, and all three of us being there showed it.
I don’t know if it was special, I didn’t get to play a lot because I got hurt. But at the time we didn’t really think of it that way because we still see each other all the time. [But] it was good for the [Ryerson] program, good for our family and friends.
Jahmal Jones at the Coca Cola Court at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (Jenelle Seelal)
What was the experience like in South Korea? Had you ever been?
No, it was a tough experience. Going to Asia is tough because of the food. You never know what to trust. I’ve been to China twice. And there’s the MERS epidemic, so you just never knew what was going to happen. [We just kept] hand sanitizer. We just had to make sure that our hands were clean all the time, because you just never know.
Was it weird playing with those guys from other schools that you’ve had so many battles with?
No, you have one common goal, and that’s to win. You make friends, obviously. It’s not the same as when you’re playing against them. You’re not trying to give a bad name to yourself or your country, so you just gotta make sure you go in with the proper mindset. And everyone’s at a high level, supposedly pro-ready, so everyone just works.
You had offers from both Carleton and Ottawa. Do you ever think about what could have been? Like you would have won a championship if you went to Carleton.
[laughs]. I’d be like everyone else there —winning championship after championship. I’d be just like them, and I like being different. I took a challenge. It was fun and I don’t regret anything.
I grew up at Ryerson, this is home. I’ll always be at Ryerson… I don’t know if I would’ve matured like this anywhere else. I was a quiet kid. I never had to really deal with a lot of people, I kept to myself, did my own thing. [Coming here,] you have to deal with a bunch of people and figure out ways to manage and lead, in ways that you never thought you wanted to.
Obviously you’ve signed with a team in the Czech Republic (Tuři Svitavy) that I can’t even pronounce…
[laughs] I can’t either.
What was the process like, what were you looking for in a team?
I don’t really have much of a say in that. Whatever the agent tells me, who’s offering… that’s all I do. It’s not like when you’re getting recruited [for school] where you get to weigh all these options. It’s not like that where you get to choose out of all these schools, because they don’t really know about you that well. So they just go off tape. Thank God the process is finished, because it’s one of the worst because you just don’t know.
Jones vs. Carleton Ravens
How much do you know about the Czech Republic going into it?
They said it was a good mid-level league to start off in. I don’t really ask a lot of questions or do a lot of research. I’m just trying to focus on my time in Toronto with my friends and family, and just trying to relax and get healthy.
You hear a lot about “the grind” of playing overseas. Are you worried at all about the transition?
No. Never been worried. If I was worried, I probably wouldn’t be around. I came to Ryerson, to a situation that wasn’t the prettiest. I’m used to this type of stuff. My mom gets mad, she always says “why do you have to take the hard route?” But I’ve never had a problem with it; I like to stay under the radar. That’s just how I am.
What about the language barrier?
No. My job is on the court, to get guys in spots to make open shots. To contribute. At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. Whether you understand the language or not, you just gotta perform. It is what it is. I’m not in a situation — to be honest I don’t even know what my situation is, but I don’t have five years with the coach. I have a month, maybe two months to get to know my coach. I don’t know if I have 7-8 months, so I just need to figure out ways to be successful.
You’re Roy’s first recruit to go pro. What does that mean to you?
It means a lot, because when I first came to Ryerson, the goal was always to change the program, to set a trend, be a trailblazer. Because now, next it will be Aaron, then Adika, Juwon [Grannum], J.V. [Mukama], whoever’s next. For me, I don’t really have a choice [but to succeed.] If I don’t want to play, maybe other guys don’t want to play. I got to be a leader in another aspect, because we’re all connected, no matter what, now. It looks bad for the program and myself if I wouldn’t try something like this, because people put so much time into me and invested so much energy as coaches. So I’ve got to try it and hopefully do well at it and other guys can do the same. But at the end of the day, we built something special. All of us saw it coming, but we just got to be thankful for Roy and the whole department for helping us build so much self-confidence.
What was the reaction from your family after you signed?
I wasn’t around them at the time, so I don’t know. I never asked. I didn’t want them to know until later on in the month. … I wasn’t really in contact with a lot of people because I don’t really talk about it. That’s how I am, I don’t get too high or too low, so the celebrations [are unnecessary.] I don’t want to celebrate just getting there.
Jones vs. Syracuse Orange
Then what is celebration-worthy to you?
Nothing? Do you need a championship before you’ll celebrate?
No, it’s just that celebration to me is the grind of it, completing the process. Being here for five years, getting to nationals, getting to the final four, stuff like that. This one’s just me by myself, so it’s not the same. Celebrations are always for team-based things, with the guys who were in the gym. This is just about me. There’s no reason to celebrate because this has been my goal all along.
Photos by Charles Vanegas and Jenelle Seelal
Edited by Drew Ebanks