Sports

Kai Jones ready for NBA Draft

Bahamian forward/center Kai Jones is about to become the sixth Bahamian to be drafted in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is a projected first rounder in the 2021 NBA Draft that takes place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Thursday.

The former University of Texas player said he is looking forward to Thursday.

“I am excited,” Jones said. “I cannot wait to live out my dream by going to the green room and being in New York. All of my family will be there, so it will just be a huge blessing and I am excited for it.”

He was one of 20 players to receive an invitation to sit in the green room at the draft. The green room is the area in front of the Draft podium where players, families and agents await to hear their name called upon selection by the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

The high energy player is ranked at number 20 in the ESPN draft rankings. Several mock drafts have him going to the Charlotte Hornets as the number 11 overall pick. He has worked out for the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Charlotte Hornets and the San Antonio Spurs.

The Bahamian signed with Klutch Sports Group, which is one of the top sports agencies and is run by Rich Paul. They represent the likes of Los Angeles duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards and the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young.

He has been training in Los Angeles, California, for most of the summer.

As mentioned earlier, once selected on Thursday, Jones will join a very few select Bahamians to be drafted in the top league in the world. Once selected, he will be following in the footsteps of Mychal “Sweet Bells” Thompson (1978 first overall pick), Osbourne “Goose” Lockhart (1978 in the sixth round, 130th overall), Rick Fox (1991, 24th overall pick), Chavano “Buddy” Hield (2016 sixth overall pick) and DeAndre Ayton (2018 first overall pick).

He can be the third active Bahamian player in the NBA if he is drafted joining Hield and Ayton. He loves that the sport is growing at home.

“It is awesome seeing the enthusiasm and the fanbase grow,” Jones said. “People are paying more attention to the NBA and it is inspiring to the kids back home as it was inspiring to me.”

Standing at 6’11” and weighing 225 pounds, Jones describes his game as one that can impact the sport inside and outside.

“All-around athlete. Can impact the game inside and out with my size. I can spread the floor and bring a high motor and high energy to the game along with my versatility,” said Jones.

“I think I fit all the qualities of the new-age big. Being somebody that can rebound and run the floor, but also score and shoot from the outside.”

He has been playing organized basketball since the age of 15 and was able to make the junior national basketball team. His breakout moment came from the 2017 NBA Basketball Without Borders Americas camp that was held here in The Bahamas. It helped to land him on the basketball map and the rest is history.

The 20-year-old has shown that he can be efficient from the field. In his sophomore year, his final season at Texas, he shot 58 percent from the field including shooting 38.2 percent from deep. Jones made his first 14 field goal attempts last season. He averaged 8.8 points per game, 4.8 rebounds and .92 blocks in 22.8 minutes per game in 26 games played.

Like most players, Jones said he patterned his game against an NBA player or two; most specifically, NBA Champions and Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“I watched a lot of their films and saw the way they play the game. Giannis plays the game with passion with his ability to get to the rim with his Euro-step and contact. Durant’s footwork on each shot is the best in the game with his form and how he holds the follow through. There is also his high release on his midrange. I just try to watch those guys and pattern my game after them,” Jones said.

Known to be a skinny player, the Bahamian knew he had to bulk up for the night in and night out physicality of the NBA. He was able to hire a chef, a decision that has paid off, as he added on a considerable amount of pounds on the scale since wrapping up his sophomore year.

“Since I left Texas, I have a chef right now and I have someone on my nutrition from the agency who I talk a lot to. I get more meals now and have been lifting (weights) considerably more now. I am at 225 pounds – I was 218 pounds when I left Texas, so I have put on some weight. It has been all muscles and has been very good for me,” Jones said.

One thing for sure is that the big man is enjoying the moment as his dream of playing in the NBA is being realized.

The NBA Draft will be shown live on ESPN and ABC beginning at 8 p.m.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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