Thursday, August 7, 2008

Jumaine Jones Signs with Team in Italy

Jumaine Jones recently signed a 1-year contract with Armani Jeans Milano. The team has an option to extend the deal for another 1-year period.

Milano is the second Italian team for which Jones has played. Jones played last year for Eldo Basket Napoli, where he averaged 18 pts and 9 boards per game, and was the 4th leading scorer in the Italian League.

Jumaine Jones was born in Cocoa, Florida, a suburb of Orlando, on February 10, 1979. When Jones was 13, he reportedly witnessed a man get shot and killed. Discontent with the crime-ridden neighborhood in which he lived, Jones asked his mother if he could live in Camilla, Georgia, with a beloved aunt, Rebecca Clayton.

Camilla proved to be an excellent location for Jones. Since his aunt cared for 4 other nephews besides Jones, there was always plenty of competition for friendly basketball games. In fact, Rebecca Clayton's home featured 4 outdoor basketball goals, the rims of which became bent and misshapen as Jones developed his leaping ability and signature dunking style.

Tabbed the "Thrilla from Camilla," Jumaine Jones averaged 27 points and 17 rebounds per game for Coach McDuffie and Mitchell-Baker High School. Jones was named Second Team Parade All-American after his senior year.

Jones committed to UGA Coach Tubby Smith for the 1997 season, but Smith soon after left for the University of Kentucky. Georgia's new coach, Ron Jirsa, who was a Tubby Smith assistant and had helped to initially recruit Jones, flew down to Camilla to meet personally with Jones and re-recruit him to Athens.

Jones honored his commitment to UGA and soon began to put up big numbers for Georgia, averaging 15 pts and 9 boards per game. Jones was named SEC Freshman of the Year. Jones also played for the Goodwill Games in 1998. Jones followed his first season by averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds his sophomore year. He was the first sophomore since UGA's Vern Fleming to lead the SEC in scoring.

Although Jones did well, UGA's basketball team was seen to underperform during Ron Jirsa's tenure. Jirsa was let go, and Jim Harrick announced as the new Bulldogs coach.

Perhaps tired of the coaching changes, Jones declared for the draft. Depite Harrick's efforts to convince Jones to stay, he closed the door on returning to UGA when he hired an agent, Jimmy Sexton, to represent his interests.

Unfortunately, draft night was not kind to Jones. Expected by some to be a lottery pick, Jones ended up falling all the way to the 27th pick, just two spots shy of slipping into the second round, in which contracts are not guaranteed. Jones was the last player left in the Green Room, the location for the expected top picks to sit until their names are called and they are congratulated by the NBA's commissioner.

After two and a half hours had passed, Jones was selected by the Atlanta Hawks. He was almost immediately traded to the Philadelphia 76er's. Philadelphia signed Jones to a 3-year contract.

Despite the disappointment over the draft process and how his time in the League started off, Jumaine had a relatively long and successful NBA career. He stayed in the League for 8 years, playing for Philly, L.A., Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston, L.A., and Charlotte. Jones averaged 7 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist for his career.

Jones signed with his first international team back in October of 2007, and it looks likely that with his new deal, he will continue to play in the Italian League for at least two more years.

Congratulations, Jumaine.

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