The long-awaited 2021 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft is tonight and for Bahamian center/forward Kai Jones, he got the privilege of being one of 20 draft prospects who will be in the green room at the Barclays Center when the league’s Commissioner Adam Silver announces which team selects the first round draftees. Jones hopes he is among those whose name Silver calls.
Located in Brooklyn, New York, the Barclays Center serves as the host location for the event for the eighth time. It is also the first time that the draft was held in July since the inaugural draft in 1947. Last year, draftees did not get the opportunity to be at the draft and surrounded by family due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The green room is the area in front of the draft podium where select players, with their families and agents, wait to hear their name called.
Sitting in the green room with Jones to hear his name called will be his father, Deyvon Jones; mother, Kasprintina Ellis; step-mother, Jillian Jones; and four siblings – Kaden, Liam, Dylan and Luke Jones.
His father has been with him every step of his basketball journey. When he signed with Klutch Sports Group, there was the elder Jones. At the showcase that Klutch had earlier this month, there was the elder Jones once more in the background, talking to Kai Jones.
“My dad has been huge in this basketball process,” The younger Jones said. “He guided me and gave me advice about how to approach every day and how to approach practice and games. He taught me how to approach my coaches if I feel like I am not playing enough and how to just have a resilient spirit. He has been somebody who has been in my ear. He is one of my biggest fans and also one of my biggest critics. He is hard on me, but also really proud of me, the standards that I have of myself and the discipline that I have, so he is very influential in that regard, telling me how to be a disciplined person and how to structure my life.”
As the eldest sibling, the 20-year-old has been very supportive of his brothers. Kaden Jones is a middle distance runner and when Kai is at one of Kaden’s race, he can be heard cheering on his younger brother as he runs around the track and across the finish line. Kai Jones knows that his brothers look up to him, although he is not there every day physically.
“I am not there in the house every day so I lead by example. They don’t get to see my daily habits or how much goes into what I do, but I am sure that my dad tells them about it. They know that I am a very disciplined and hard-working guy. They saw me when I was young working hard around the house. I am sure it inspires them and lets them know that when you want to be great at something, it takes a lot of work, it does not just happen. I give them a perspective of what the real world is like, because people at 20 do not have their career figured out. They saw the diligence that I had from the age of 15. I hope that inspires them to try and be the same way,” Jones added.
He got on the basketball radar at the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) and the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Americas Camp in 2017 here in New Providence. The year after, he was at the NBA Global Camp in Treviso, Italy. At the camp here in The Bahamas, he was named an All-Star. Guardian Sports caught up with NBA Senior Director of International Basketball Operations and Elite Basketball Christopher Ebersole, who was at the camp and gave his assessment of Jones at the camp.
“We did not have Kai on our radar until right before that camp,” Ebersole said. “We actually saw Kai working out in the same gym where we were hosting the BWB camp. He immediately jumped out with his size and athleticism. He was still very raw at the time, I think he had only been playing basketball for like two years. You could see with just the way he moves, his wingspan, his length, size and the motor he played with and how hard he played. He also practiced hard even through drills, we were excited to see him working out. We added him late for that camp. He was one of the standouts.”
Ebersole added, “The other thing that jumped out to me about Kai was how hungry he was to learn and for knowledge. He was a player looking for feedback from his coaches, listened really intently to that feedback and applied it very quickly. He was at the very early stage of his development, so he was able to put it into practice very quickly. One of the goals of the camp is to impart knowledge form NBA coaches and players to these young players. Coming out of the camp, we were all pretty impressed and thought that the sky is the limit for this kid.”
Jones is a projected first round pick at this year’s draft. He has worked out for the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Charlotte Hornets and the San Antonio Spurs.
One thing is for sure, once his name is called he will have his family around him congratulating him as he sees his dream of playing in the NBA realized tonight.