Crossover Exposure had the honor to sit with Dequan Jones, an Atlanta native and discuss his life story and journey as a basketball player with experience in the NBA and overseas. DeQuan is currently playing in the G League for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and recently won Player of the Month averaging 26.5ppg, 5.8rpg while shooting 59.7% from the field.
CRX: Where did you grow up and how was life growing up with your family?
DJ: I grew up in Stone Mountain, GA in a single parent household with just my Mom. It was hard, but she provided me with the essentials needed. I was an only child at the time, so I spent a lot of time with my cousins and we got into all sorts of things. Although my mom didn’t have much time because of work, I remember her doing all she could to support me, even if it was spending what little extra time she had to come watch me play football. She showed her love in many ways.
CRX: When did you first start playing basketball and when did you realize that you had a legit future?
DJ: I was always athletic, but I wasn’t the most skilled player. I took a lot of pride in blocking shots. I remember before PE in school, Coach Cam would let us play 5 on 5 before school and it was pretty much in front of the whole school..blocking shots was the thing that I really enjoyed because it elicited the biggest reaction from the students. Everyone could dribble but not many were athletic enough to block shots the way I could. Over time, my coaches eventually forced me to work on other aspects of my game. I realized that I had a future in sport when I got a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia in my freshman year of high school. It really forced me to take things more serious and really buckle down and work on my skills.
CRX: What were some of the challenges you faced in HS and college in terms of basketball or socially?
DJ: It was a big culture shock transferring from Stone Mountain HS to Wheeler HS. Wheeler was 45 minutes away from home and was a very diverse school, whereas Stone Mountain was a predominantly African American school. It gave me new perspectives on things and taught me to take working hard and training more serious. The best advice I got in high school was to train like I was already in college. Socially it was difficult to adapt with other people’s ethnicities, traditions and outlooks, but in the end it really opened my eyes and prepared me for the world.
CRX: You attended the University of Miami, what were some other choices or offers you had and what made you choose Miami?
DJ: My final 5 were Oklahoma, Memphis, Cincinnati, Miami and Florida State. I chose Miami because at the time I was coached by an older gentleman named Lawson Bowman who was my mentor at the time. He had a great relationship with one of the assistant coaches at the school and being how much I respected him and wanted his input, I wanted to keep a family feel moving forward. When I got there it was just the feeling I envisioned. On top of that, it was the SEC and Miami..it wasn’t hard to convince an 18 year old male to go to Miami..lol.
CRX: You went through a time of uncertainty at Miami and actually had to sit out 10 games due to recruiting allegations, but were eventually cleared. What did you learn from that situation?
DJ: That was one of the toughest periods of my life. I learned how to persevere and really channel my energy on what I wanted to achieve. It also taught me a lot about people who I thought were in my corner..here today and gone tomorrow. It taught me how to remain positive and push through.
CRX: After a solid career at Miami, you entered the NBA Draft, but weren’t drafted. Tell us about your subsequent workouts and mental state during this time.
DJ: It was tough going into the Draft and having a roller coaster of a senior year, there was so much uncertainty. I signed with a big agency which had a lot of 1st and 2nd round picks…being in that environment with those guys and seeing all the opportunities and special situations they had, it could have been easy to fall into a comparison trap. I only had 3 workouts with the Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons and the LA Lakers. It was easy to start to feel doubt, staying up late nights wondering why I was trying so hard or if I should even be there..it took some time until one night I told myself that I would do whatever I could to control the things I could and not worry about the rest. If I didn’t make it and I did all I could, I could live with that. Once I made my mind up, the rest was history. Eventually I got a call from the Magic to come to play for their Summer League team and I eventually went on to make the team.
CRX: Through the years, you have been in and out of the league and also played overseas. How would you rate your experiences overseas and how has traveling changed your perspective on things?
DJ: Playing overseas has been a tremendous eye opener for me. Playing in some countries, some things we as Americans take for granted, such as washing clothes, cooking and watching TV all at the same time. Seeing how hard others work in other countries or the sacrifices they endure makes me thankful for all that I have and gives me perspective. Another thing I learned was the importance of being present in the moment…it can be very difficult if you are not present in the moment. Submerging myself in the culture of the people was one thing that helped me a lot…I enjoyed visiting temples, landmarks and historical places of importance. It helped me to relate to the people and be in the moment. Life is a journey and when you do that, you appreciate it more.
CRX: Many aspiring pros think overseas is easy to make or they can make a living indefinitely…what advice would you give collegiate athletes or even high schoolers who have their sites set on a professional career?
DJ: Its not easy at all. Playing overseas you are forced to be self reflective. At home its easy to distract yourself with family, friends or activities, but overseas usually you can’t speak the language so there is a sense of isolation even if you are in a room full of people. It is what you make it. Most players or people already have a preconceived notion of what American basketball players are like, such as they are selfish or don’t play the game the right way. It is important that you learn about your teammates and how to play with them, because you will need them, considering that usually the American players are a focal point on offense. Other than that I would say become a student of the game.
CRX: You are currently playing with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA G League. How is your season going and what are your goals?
DJ: We are currently 1st place in our division at 25-15. I was honored to receive the NBA G League Player of the Month award for February, so we are just focused on finishing the season strong and playing to our potential. It can be difficult at times dealing with the 2 way contracts and having players assigned or coming and leaving, but its something we have to work through.
CRX: One day, we must all put the ball down. What is your outlook and interest in staying connected to the game after your playing days are over?
DJ: I don’t know, that is a good question. My wife and I joke that I may end up coaching our kids. I don’t think coaching is for me, but its a bit early to say. We will see.
CRX: Are you involved in any business or activities outside of basketball that you’d like to share with us?
DJ: Yes! My wife and I run an NPO called the Jet Jones Foundation and our major focus is providing inner city kids with the resources they need to take flight to a brighter future. I was blessed and fortunate to make it out of the inner city. Someone has to speak for the kids still in impoverished situations. We have back to school drives and donate school supplies to Title 1 Schools. We also have fundraisers, last year we had a 5K run and donated the proceeds to the foundations that we work with. We refurbish books that are sent to Africa and we work with the community food bank which is donated to Meals on Wheels. We also have Maintain the Mound and go to Randolph Madlock Part and clean up the park and nearby neighborhoods to keep the kids environment clean and let them know that people care and instill a sense of pride in them. That is something I really enjoy and look to get into more in my post career.
Crossover Exposure salutes Mr. Jet Jones for his journey and is happy to cover a talented athlete, but more importantly a positive role model and good hearted human. Follow the Jet Jones Foundation at www.jetjonesfoundation.org