Basketball coaches like challenges. Or at least they should, some might argue, since the majority of coaching careers are filled with impending challenges. Developing basketball players with little to no refinement. Sudden player injuries. Losing seasons. Unforeseen trades. The fitting together of a team of players as complex as the most intricate jigsaw puzzle.
David Jones, a former professional player who won championships and broke records all over Germany and Europe and founded Shooting For Success Basketball, in San Antonio, Texas would tell you challenges build character. Challenges force a person to focus on solutions and are the impetus behind working toward obtaining them. And as crazy as it may sound, challenges, especially in the world of sports, can teach coaches and players alike how to enjoy the moment even when things don’t go as planned.
Jones, also known around the world as the “Shot Doctor”, a nickname pinned on him after he helped “fix” basketball great Jeremy Lin’s broken shot pre-NBA draft, loves a challenge.
And recently, he got a good one.
Jones told me he was training in his Stone Oak area gymnasium one late night in early September, when he received a call from China. A friend there who is a basketball liaison between China and the United States was calling to invite Jones to a huge tournament being held in China for the country’s Men’s National and professional teams there. The liaison told Jones the Chinese teams were in need of a solid men’s team to scrimmage – -preferably from the United States.
“China is really focused on upping their basketball program and reputation and increasing the skill and positioning of all its teams,” Jones said. “They see U.S. basketball as the best and want to train against the best to become better.”
Jones was up for the task of bringing a team to China. Problem is, he didn’t currently have one. Jones had several youth teams, even a varsity age team of mostly fourteen and fifteen year olds. But a men’s team? Nope.
There was no question, Jones told me. He would take on the challenge, recruiting, forming, and coaching a men’s team of pro-worthy players that could be en route on a plane to Beijing within a month. One month was all Jones had to not only find a team but train one to win. “I jumped on the phone like an investigator tracking a hot lead,” laughed Jones.
So Jones recalled several young men he had trained in recent years who had played college ball or some level of professional ball. He was in hot pursuit of players with potential.
“Would it be tough to put together a team of nine or ten men, many of whom probably hadn’t played for awhile and didn’t know one another from Jack? Absolutely,” Jones said. But Jones says he know that a creation of a men’s team of players with serious potential in front of the eyes of professional coaches and scouts in China was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these players, who for various reasons, hadn’t yet gotten the experience and exposure they possibly deserved.
Players, such as, Joseph Barrow. The 23-year-old has played basketball at several area junior colleges. He recently got accepted to Texas Southern, a D1 school in Houston, where Barrow says he planned to be a walk-on, hoping to make the team, later this year.Barrow said the timing of playing in China couldn’t be coincidental. He told me he and his dad, were sitting down at a table talking about his future when DJ happen to call. The father and son had been in a deep discussion specifically about “walking by faith” and doors opening when one least expects it. No sooner had words similar to that escaped Barrow’s dad’s mouth, Jones was on the phone asking Joseph to travel to China to play ball in front of pro scouts and coaches. “What a blessing,” Joseph said.
In all, Jones was able to pull together ten men for the team. The players range in age from 23 to 38. They practice nearly every day of the week, usually long after Jones’ youth teams and private training clients have gone home. Often, the makeshift team practices into the early hours of the morning focusing on conditioning and getting their bodies and minds ready to play FIBA (international) rules that include a longer court and different shot clock.
“My number one goal with taking this group of players to China is to get as many of them signed with a professional team as possible,” Jones said.And, Jones wants to win in China. Badly. As does every player on the team. Twenty-four year-old Sean Bambace is especially driven. Bambace is a fellow Shooting For Success Trainer and Coach. He grew up among the culture and training at Shooting For Success and Jones’ training. In fact, Bambace played on what many say was probably Jones’ greatest youth club basketball team to date and landed a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Dallas where he ran Point Guard for the Crusaders. Bambace even had several big time showcases scheduled towards the end of his college basketball career where he’d have the eyes of overseas scouts and coaches on him. But several injuries left the point guard in limbo. Unsure his body could perform at its best, Bambace returned home to San Antonio after graduation last spring. Bambace said he has had little regret when it comes to his own basketball career. But last month, when Jones approached him about playing in China, the dream of going pro came flooding back. Suddenly, there was little Bambace wanted more.
“To have (Jones) offer me this opportunity to chase what I thought maybe was a lost dream – to do this again when I’m healthy and still young is phenomenal,” Bambace said.
What Bambace hopes, like so many of the players going with Jones to China, is to return home to San Antonio signed contract in one hand and a basketball in the other.
A second chance at a big dream.
A chance made possible by a coach who accepted one heck of a challenge.
“This has been fun,” Jones said. “A lot of hard work and quick thinking and moving on all of the players’ parts – but fun.”
Jones’ Men’s Team looks to leave for China in late September or early October. They will travel and play in multiple Chinese cities with return to the States expected late October. Learn more about David Jones Pro Training, Jones’ elite training division, here.
Erin Kirwan is a former broadcast journalist and Founder of Savvy Media PR. She helps share player stories, news, and more for Shooting For Success.