Marcus Jones is proof that one decision can sometimes present a world of opportunities.
When the local basketball player had the chance to go to the Athlete Institute Academy in Orangeville instead of returning to North Park Collegiate, there was some apprehension — especially since his school was known for producing basketball players and championships.
Despite that apprehension, Jones took the opportunity and ran with it, not only improving as a player but travelling the world and earning a full scholarship to Gannon University in Erie, PA.
“It’s exciting,” Jones said after class at Orangeville District Secondary School earlier this year. “I made the verbal commitment. I had a bunch of visits lined up but I visited the school . . . and loved it.”
Jones, who wasn’t sure where he was going to go to school prior to the visit, said a workout and conversation with Gannon coach John Reilly made things very clear.
“It’s been a long process,” Jones said. “This is a big weight off my chest. It’s been a long road. At first it’s cool to be recruited but it got draining after a while. It’s nice to finally have a place to call home and it’s exciting to be going to an NCAA school.”
Jones said he hopes to help the Golden Knights win an NCAA Division II title.
“They want to win a national championship,” Jones said. “Last year they had an off season at 22-7. Expectations are high and I like that.”
And that’s nothing new for Jones, who helped the NPC Trojans to several Brant County and CWOSSA championships before going to AIA.
“It worked out perfectly,” Jones said of his decision to attend AIA. “It’s funny how things happen. When AIA popped up, I was hearing the rumours (about a possible extra-curricular stoppage during basketball season). It was a great opportunity so I went for it.”
So while his former teammates at NPC were wondering if a basketball season would happen or continue, Jones began a basketball grind that’s consisted of long days in the classroom and in the gym.
He said a typical day begins at 6:30 a.m., when the players go for a run. After breakfast they attend classes at ODSS, which included SAT-specific courses.
Once their day at school is over, a bus picks the players up and drops them off at the practice facility, where they do weight training and practice. After practice, it’s supper around 7:30 p.m.
“Its tough but worth it,” the 18-year-old said. “It really prepares you for life at the university level. With homework, a typical day ends around 11 p.m.”
While AIA’s league, National Prep School Athletic Association, had troubles of its own, the AIA schedule consisted of exhibition games and Amateur Athletic Union tournaments in the United States.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Jones said. “There’s a big adjustment from high school to prep. The speed of the game and athleticism suited me and I began to grow as a player.
“A lot of the guys played AAU basketball before, but I found it a little intimidating at first,” he said. “I did my thing and I found myself growing confidence.”
That confidence translated into a change in his game.
“At North Park I was more of a facilitator that could take the shot,” Jones said. “At AIA, I’ve become more aggressive getting to the net and finishing. My main focus was to be a finisher. In Brantford I was an athlete and Mr. Andrew (NPC coach Todd Andrew) really helped me become a basketball player. Here I took that to a new level and it’s something I hope I can continue to do.”
IN THE PAINT: While Jones has been focusing on a place to play next year, he recently returned from the Junior International Tournament in Italy. Jones played for a select team based out of Toronto.
“It really showed I can play at the next level,” Jones said. “It made me learn a lot about myself as a person and player. I always wanted to play professionally but after that, it really opened my eyes to what is out there.”
Marcus Jones End of Season Mix