Derrick Jones Jr. isn’t on the standard Miami Heat roster, as he battles to create a spot for himself before the allotted NBA days on his two-way contract expire. Known for his insane dunks, Jones jr. has another, tougher side to him. Along with his long-time friend Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, both came from Chester, Pa., a suburb outside of Philadelphia.
”With a 7-foot wingspan and 42.5-inch max vertical, Jones’ profile grew in high school as a dunking legend out of Arch Bishop Carroll High School in Pennsylvania, where he grew up in the basketball-rich community that produced Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans and former Arizona Wildcat and current Brooklyn Net Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who’s known Jones since Jones was 6 years old.”
”’That’s my boy,’ Jones said of Hollis-Jefferson. ‘He just tells me what I need to do. He told me, since I left college after one year, everybody knows I got to get my body stronger. He’s just telling me, that’s going to come a long way — my body, it’s going to come within time. He just told me I have to come out there and play hard.’”
Even though he appears frail and skinny, Derrick learned early how to survive in the jungle that is life, on and off the court.
“Coming from Chester, it being a violent city, not a lot of people make it out of there, not a lot of people make it to the age of 21,” said Jones Jr. “I’m just so thankful that my father, my mother and my grandmother got me out of the situation I was in. I’m a much better player and person today. It just means everything. Where I’m from, that’s who I am. It’s the reason I’m that scrapper. Where I’m from, you had to be. Either you play your heart out, or you’re going to get punked. I learned that when I was about 9 or 10. I never let anybody punk me no matter how big or small they are.”
That anybody includes Russell Westbrook.
Later Jones Jr. flies out of now where to deny Westbrook a basket.
Aside from his high-flying dunks, Jones Jr. joins James Johnson in not letting anyone punk him. Add Justise Winslow, Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk (the Kevin Love incident), Rodney McGruder, today’s Heat bring the Vice back to Miami’s hardwood courts.
At 20 years old, Jones Jr. and Adebayo still get lost on defense at times, as veterans like Dwyane Wade pull moves out of their bag of tricks. Later on as DJJ and BA gain experience, they too will school newcomers on life in professional basketball.
Right now though, hunger and a feisty attitude can’t be taught in film rooms. Can the Heat remain hot for all the 38 games left in the regular season? With only 3 games in the loss column separating playoff and lottery teams, not getting those 50-50 balls can spell the difference come April.