by 10th YEAR SENIORS
Kai Jones brought his busy recruiting process to an end when he committed to join Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns.
Jones made the announcement to become the second commitment for head coach Shaka Smart for the upcoming Fall 2019 campaign.
Jones, a consensus four-star recruit, chose the Longhorns over the Florida State Seminoles and Baylor Bears.
He was one of 11 new prospects on the list for ESPN’s updated rankings for the class of 2019.
A 4.0 student in the classroom, Jones transferred to Brewster Academy in Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire this academic year after spending the last season at Orlando Christian Prep in Orlando, Florida.
Jones joined the 10YS team to talk about his personal hoops journey, the decision to join the Longhorns, the future of Bahamian basketball and more.
10YS: Tell us about the origin of your basketball story. What first attracted you to the game and what are your earliest memories of playing?
Kai Jones: The game first started for me in 7thgrade just playing in an open gym.
I just fell in love with the game and found the passion for it and I really started working on my game at the age of 15 during that summer going into 10th grade.
I really started taking this game seriously with regards to the team aspect of it. A lot of that is what attracted, me just knowing that I would be able to play with my friends and we would be able to accomplish something together.
10YS: At what point did things begin to click for you and you thought that you could compete with your peers?
KJ: When I realized I was putting in way too much work to doubt myself.
I started to play with more confidence I just realized that my work should be giving me confidence knowing that I work harder than the majority of people.
I know now when I step on the floor I should be confident with the work that I put in and just know that I’ve put in enough of that work to be above anyone on the floor.
It was just a matter of continuing to play with that confidence and mindset. It took me a long way.
10YS: The junior national team experience and coming up short there, did that serve as motivation to excel to a next level?
KJ: The Jr National team experience did serve as motivation.
Unfortunately, I was unable to play, just because of some minor injuries and the coaches thought it would be best for me to sit out.
It was a great experience and it just made me more hungry to put on for my country and to do well for my country. Eventually, I’ll get my opportunity to represent.
10YS: Your game developed quickly at OCP, what do you attribute that growth to?
KJ: I attribute that growth to my parents, my mom and dad holding me down. My mom would pray on countless nights and my dad would always be a source of motivation.
My trainer/ strength and conditioning coach would work out with me every day. I would wake up at 4:45am go to the gym, shoot, lift from 6am – 7am, go to school, practice after school, go play pickup then after practice go play pickup.
It was just the work that I knew I had to do and I did that same routine every single day. It wasn’t two times a week, it wasn’t when I felt good, it wasn’t when we had a warm sunny day, it wasn’t ‘Oh we don’t have a game tomorrow’… it was every single day.
The morning after games, the morning after late night studying – I just had a consistent routine that I stuck with and that’s why I feel like my game transformed so quickly.
10YS: What was the motivation behind the decision to transfer to Brewster and what are the benefits of that programme?
KJ: What motivated me to transfer to Brewster Academy was the head coach Jason Smith and how honest and real he was with me.
Him displaying the guys he had in the past who have been successful here and who have been able to get to the NBA which is my ultimate goal – that was also a factor.
Once I was able to understand the work and they were a program centered around hard work and player development that was an easy no brainer for me.
10YS: What was the most surprising part of the recruiting process? How difficult was it to come to the decision to choose Texas?
KJ: The most surprising part is I didn’t know the connection I built with the coaches would be so strong.
I’ve built some real connections with coaches and met some real honestly great people. The recruiting process and be tough at times but the relationships you build can be worth the trouble.
10YS: Bahamian basketball is now a global brand with players like Deandre Ayton and Buddy Hield at the forefront. How does that inspire your generation, are those NCAA and NBA goals seen as more attainable now?
KJ: They definitely seem more attainable because of Buddy and Deandre. I feel like they have set a path and showed a great example of what it takes to get there.
The Buddy story is growing now, everyone knows it and knows that it took him a lot of work. Deandre, he was blessed with height and natural talent but he worked really hard as well.
I think they set a path and stage for us to go and excel and you know its grown globally now and the goals definitely seem more attainable and more realistic.
I know there’s an art to this process for everybody but once you figure out the right way it is up to you to go and believe in yourself. Having that self-confidence, it takes you a very long way.
10YS: Why Texas and what do you hope to bring to the program.
KJ: Texas showed serious interest in me before everything blew up in the summer.
Coach Smart personally recruited me and expressed his interest in getting me to Texas.
The basketball program and the academics are highly regarded and I felt that it would be a great next step for me.
I’m a very athletic player who plays with high energy and motor. I’m also very aggressive on both ends of the floor with a winning attitude and mentality.”