Growing Up ... Kevin Jones

January 23, 2013
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Cavaliers forward Kevin Jones has been working his way through his first season in the NBA – learning the ups and downs that come with being a rookie on this level.

The native of Mt. Vernon, NY posted a prolific college career at West Virginia, where he led the rough-and-tumble Big East in both scoring and rebounding as a senior. He went undrafted in 2012, but was quickly snapped up by the Wine and Gold.

Jones is still trying to work his way in Byron Scott’s rotation, but the staff loves his rugged approach and work ethic. It’s easy to see where the 6-8, 250-pounder got it from after learning about his basketball baptism at the hands of an older brother. Jones talks about that and more in today’s version of Growing Up …

I come from a somewhat … athletic family. My uncle on my mom’s side, he played basketball at Boston College. He was a real good athlete. My brother played football at the University of Hofstra and at UMass.

I have an … older brother and an older sister.

My sister is actually 6-4. But she’s a girly girl, so she never really wanted to play basketball.

My brother played … football, but he’s kind of the one who got me into basketball.

I played football and baseball… a little bit growing up, but nothing serious. No teams or anything like that. I just did it for something to do. Every other kid was doing it, and I felt like I was athletic enough.

I never really wanted … to play football professionally, because it didn’t seem like a very long career.

I had a feeling I could … take basketball to the next level in eighth grade. I played for a team called the Junior Knights which was kind of like a club team. At that time I was real raw. I had played basketball, but I’d never really learned it. So I finally had a coach and had people coaching me.

I always had … an eye for the basketball. And I always worked hard in everything I did. And I knew with that work ethic and that eye for the basketball, that maybe I could make something out of this. I didn’t know I’d be an NBA player, but I thought I could make a career out of it and I loved doing it.

So I got my … skills together somewhat – and I really enjoyed playing – and it just took off from there.

I never actually had … a growth spurt. I’ve always been the tallest one in my class, the tallest kid in my grade. I was like 6-1 in sixth grade and I kept on growing inch by inch every year, it seemed like.

I think I started out… at 6-3 in high school. And I grew an inch every year after that.

My freshman year at Mt. Vernon High School … I made varsity – which a lot of people don’t do, especially at that school. It was a powerhouse school. A freshman going to play varsity was pretty unheard of at that time. I got a lot of publicity for that. And I just kept growing and growing and getting better.

Playing hoops growing up … I’ve always been a banger. It’s what I like to do. I like shooting jump shots and all, but I really like when I’m down there in the post battling with guys. It’s just what I like to do.

My most influential coach coming up … was my middle school coach, my Junior Knights coach. His name was Duane Murray and he helped me out a lot – just teaching me the fundamentals of everything and instilling a work ethic and how to take it to another level if you really want to be good at this sport.

But my brother has always been … my biggest coach. He was around me 24/7. He’s very critical. When I think I’ve played a good game, he’d kill me anyway. But it definitely got me where I need to be. And he still does that to this day. He’s always telling me things I can improve on. And I love him for always being there for me like that.

My brother was tough on me … on the court. He’s actually 13 years older than me. So growing up, my goal was always to beat him.

Every Saturday, we’d go … to the park and have these competitions and games. And beating him was my goal.

The first time ... I finally beat him, I took a victory lap around the playground court. He would always push me around, but after that day he said: ‘Well, I may not be able to do that anymore.’

I was used to the competition because … I always played against older guys. I never played against anybody in my grade. My brother always told me: ‘If you want to get better, play against older guys and it’ll get your game more mature.’ So I’ve been doing that since like seventh grade.

The older guys would … all take their shot at me, like: ‘Oh, I got this little kid on me, I’m posting him up every time.’ But it taught me toughness and not to back down.

I remember my first dunk … in practice and my first time in a game.

Back then … I was a pretty awkward guy, not the most fluid guy on the court. And I would see everybody dunking. (This was in eighth grade.) And they’d always ask me: ‘Why can’t you dunk? And I’d say: ‘I can dunk if I wanted to!’

And one day …I just so happened to try it and the first dunk barely went in, I almost tipped it in. And everybody was like: ‘Whoaaa! OK, you can dunk!’

My first dunk in a game … I think it was in my sophomore year of high school. I just came down on a fastbreak. My teammate looked up ahead of me and I was like: ‘Should I lay it up or should I dunk it?’

So I dunked it… and everybody was going wild because they’d never seen me dunk in a game before. It was just a great moment when you finally get that first one!

On that dunk …I cranked it up and got my money’s worth! I made sure they remembered that one.