From hoop dreams in high school to playing for some of the hottest teams in the NBA, basketball has taken Damian Jones a long way.
“The journey isn’t over. I keep on working,” said Jones, who was most recently with the Sacramento Kings.
Whether a high school state championship in Louisiana or two NBA championships with the Golden State Warriors, Jones has always enjoyed “cutting down the nets,” a tradition after a basketball win, and hopes to get another chance to do that as an NBA player.
Jones got Vanderbilt University’s attention while playing at Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he was a Rivals.com 4-star recruit and averaged 15.4 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists as a senior.
At Vanderbilt, he played 99 games, averaging 13.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and finishing second in school career blocks with 167. His 56.6 percentage from the field was third best in Vanderbilt history.
After being First-Team All-SEC at Vanderbilt his sophomore and junior seasons and helping the Commodores secure an NCAA tournament berth in 2016, Jones was drafted by Golden State in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft (No. 30 overall). During 49 games with the Warriors over three seasons from 2016 to 2019, Jones averaged 5.4 points and 2.3 rebounds. He was the starting center for 22 games in 2019.
Through professional basketball, Jones, who was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in 2019 and spent time with the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers before being signed by the Kings in April, has been able to share his faith and provide a platform for “trying to live the right way and share the good life with others,” he said.
His faith is always in mind.
“Any tough time I have been through, I have to rely on faith and continue to read the Word and pray. That was always a part of me,” said Jones, who was taken to church by his parents, David and Dana Jones, while growing up in Baton Rouge. He is a member of Living Word Church and was baptized there in his early teens.
“I needed Jesus. He is everything, salvation. [And] after death, we get to go to heaven,” he said.
While playing for the Hawks, Jones and teammate forward/center Bruno Fernando attended pre-game chapel services.
“We [would] call on each other and make sure we [didn’t] miss chapel,” said Fernando, who said he often saw Jones’ faith in action.
“He is a person who believes in God. He follows … the testaments of the Bible,” Fernando said. “To see him live through that every single day, being able to see him make his devotions to the Lord, being able to be that person is a reminder for us in the locker room.”
Jones is encouraged by his mother, who sends him Bible verses daily.
Playing for the Hawks allowed him to be back in the South and closer to family.
During the 2019–2020 season Jones averaged 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds in 55 games.
In November 2020, Jones signed a contract with the Suns.
In 14 games with the Suns, he averaged 1.6 points and 1.3 rebounds per game.
When he was waived by the Suns earlier this year, he spent time on a short-term contract with the Lakers before being signed by the Kings.
Jones’ athleticism is his strength.
“His presence at the rim being a shot-blocker, big-time lob [a type of pass] threat, he fits our system really well, being able to catch and finish a lot of lobs,” Kevin Huerter, former teammate with the Hawks, said.
Another of his strengths is bonding with teammates.
“I get along with people well. I’ve just really clicked,” said Jones, who tries to help others by community outreach activities.
Even with the type of income that comes with playing in the NBA, Jones said he wants to stay focused on his faith.
“You try to stick to it,” he said. “I try to keep pushing my faith and keep on going.”