For My Family

By David Jones

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Basketball has given me everything.

It’s taken me all over the world, given me an education, and helped mold me into the person I am today.

From my beginning in the Dominican Republic to now being a Memphis Tiger, the journey has been surreal and fulfilling, but every time I step on the court, I remind myself why I’m here and who I do it for.

My family.

Honoring my dad

My father was my hero.

He still is, actually.

No matter what was going on or how hard it was, he always made sure we had food on the table and a roof over our heads.

I didn’t have to worry about those basic needs because he provided them.

He was the man.

He showed me what hard work is and how to take pride in everything you do; why? Because that’s your family’s name on the line whenever you do anything.

It’s always bigger than yourself.

It’s about you, your family, and your upbringing.

So no matter what I do, I always remind myself of that.

When my father passed away earlier this year in February, it was a complete shock.

That day was off from the start.

I was supposed to be on a plane traveling to a game, but it kept getting delayed, so I took a nap.

He passed while I was asleep, and my phone was blowing up, but I didn’t hear it because I was sleeping.

I woke up to endless missed calls and had to get the news from a friend because my mother didn’t have the heart to tell me.

It was devastating, and I took the next flight to go home and be with my family.

Grief

The following days and weeks were some of the toughest in my life.

I went through every emotion. Sadness, anger, guilt, shame, frustration, you name it.

I wasn’t even sure if I would go back to school.

Nothing seemed more important than what was lost, and the thought of even leaving this place to do anything else didn’t seem right.

But that’s where my family stepped in.

Family can give you a better understanding of the situation and offer a different perspective.

I didn’t want to leave because I was heartbroken and feeling sad, but my family convinced me I had to go.

They reminded me that it’s what Dad would want.

I had work to do to get my degree and further pursue my dream of becoming a professional basketball player — something I couldn’t do in the Dominican Republic.

And so, I returned.

But when I did, it was important to me to carry my dad with me on the court. After all, he is the main reason I’m doing this.

That’s why I wear the number eight.

My dad would have turned 56 on December 8.

The following days and weeks were some of the toughest in my life. I went through every emotion. Sadness, anger, guilt, shame, frustration, you name it. I wasn't even sure if I would go back to school.

Home away from home

I moved to the US during high school to go after that dream of playing basketball.

It was tough at first.

Particularly the language. I couldn’t even tell people that I was hungry.

But my family insisted on toughening it out and not losing sight of the big picture.

After high school, I began my collegiate career with DePaul before transferring to St. John’s for another season.

But when it was time for me to make another move, I got in touch with Memphis.

It wasn’t hard to say yes to Coach Hardaway.

I knew of his career in the NBA, and with my dreams of making it to the league one day and seeing the program he is building here, I bought in quickly.

Being a Tiger is special.

There’s nothing like it when our home fans are going wild, the team is going on a run, and everything is clicking.

You feel like this energy around you where everything is possible, and nothing can stop you.

I’ve only been here for this season, but it has quickly become my home away from home.

No question.

Nature and nurture

It’s funny how everything is connected.

My journey has been about making bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime while pursuing my dreams.

From the early days of playing basketball with my sister in the backyard to using Google Translate to talk with my first host family to now playing D1 basketball under the great Penny Hardaway — it’s all the life experiences that have been poured into me to make me who I am.

People talk about nature versus nurture and whether who we are is natural or based on our upbringing and community. It’s not an either-or situation; it’s both.

We are the sum of it all, and if we make the most of the good, learn from the bad, and work through the middle, I think we’ll come out as the best version of ourselves.

That’s my goal here in Memphis.

I want to take everything I’ve learned and give it my all for the city, the program, the school, and most importantly, my family and my dad, who I know is watching over me.

So, let’s make the most of it.