NBA draft: Jones watches, waits with family
LAKE WALES -- Eagerly awaiting the biggest night of his basketball life, USF guard Dominique Jones is back in his hometown, watching the NBA draft with a large group of friends and relatives at his grandmother's home.
The large group muted the ESPN broadcast just minutes before the draft began Thursday night, bowing their heads and holding hands in prayer, thankful for the huge opportunity awaiting Jones. The small home, nestled among countless rows of orange groves, was overflowing with former teammates -- his high school coach, Jimmy Johnson, now in Cocoa Beach, drove in to be with Jones on his big night.
An hour into the draft, a crowd of more than 60 had gathered to watch the draft on a TV perched in the driveway, growing quiet and turning to listen as each pick was announced. Lake Wales hasn't had an excitement like this since another proud native, Amare Stoudemire, was drafted with the No. 9 pick in 2002.
"It builds a lot of hope," said Burney Hayes, an officer with the Lake Wales Police Department who coached both Jones and Stoudemire in their early playing days. "It ingrains that they have a chance, that if young people will do their part, that they have an opportunity to go beyond what the norm is. It doesn't come by chance. Dominique Jones put in the work. He listened, and he kept positive people around him. That makes a difference."
We'll have more updates as the draft continues -- Jones is hopeful of being USF's first-ever first-round draft pick, but he's been consistent in saying all he wants is a chance, a situation where he can continue to prove himself. In an hour or two, he'll know where that opportunity will come from.