How a basketball player’s hoop dreams landed in Asia – 1/2

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“I just went to the Asian crowd and said ‘you, you, you and you, come here!’. After that, I just took off.”

The moment Decorey Jones took off, not only was he taking off for the slam-dunk that would be the highlight of the night, he was taking off for what would become the highlight of his professional basketball career.

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Jones’ story starts out in Montgomery, Alabama where he attended Faulkner University. He played basketball for the Faulkner Eagles of the NAIA (National Association of  Intercollegiate Athletics).

Jones remained a a low profile player in a low profile league. His opportunities were slim and none although his dream to become a professional basketball stayed strong at heart.

“After college my name was never mentioned with pro basketball. Everybody was just like ‘What are you going to do with your degree?’. I told everybody that I wanted to be a professional basketball player. I knew some people couldn’t take me serious. I knew some coaches didn’t take me serious but at the end of the day it didn’t matter what they thought or what they would say. It’s what I wanted to do,” said Jones.

With graduation right around the corner, Jones received a call from a friend inviting him to try-out for an exposure league in Atlanta, Georgia.

The WBA (World Basketball Association) is a league where hidden talents come together to gain exposure for pro basketball leagues. Think of it as a feeder league.

Former NBA player and current NBA D-League player Jamario Moon (finished second place in the 2008 NBA Slam-Dunk contest) spent some time in the WBA before going on to play for the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Bobcats.

Weeks, days, hours would pass but still no call from any teams of the WBA. The pressure was getting to Jones until the day of his graduation when Jones received a phone call that would change his life.

“I was one day away from signing my lease for an apartment in Montgomery, Alabama. My mind wasn’t really on graduation I was just thinking about playing basketball. I was just thinking ‘man I hope I get drafted. I hope I get picked up by a team.'”

“It’s 11 o’clock at night. My whole family and I are poolside at a hotel in Montgomery, Alabama. I get a phone call.”

Is this Decorey Jones?

“Yes this is him speaking.”

Hi I’m calling from the Conyers Court Kings of the WBA. Have you been picked up by a team yet?

“No sir, I have not.”

Well congratulations Corey, this call is to let you know we picked you up.

“(SCREAMS!)”

He would play the season with the Court Kings to gain exposure in his quest to become a pro-baller.

During his tenure with the Court Kings, Jones adapted quickly to the physicality and the speed that comes with playing at the “next level”. He would earn himself a spot on the all-rookie first team.

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Dedicated to make his pro basketball dream come true. Jones took marketing into his own hands.

“I didn’t have an agent or anything so I made a highlight tape from my time in the WBA. I made my own profile. I’d be up until 4 a.m. just sending my profile out. I was on Facebook, I was on Twitter, I was on EuroBasket, trying to get my name out.”

His efforts would finally be rewarded.

“One night I got a Facebook message from the owner of the MABA (Malaysian Basketball Association) saying ‘I have a team in Malaysia that would be interested in your services.'”

It was a the Malaysian junior national team inviting Jones to be a part of their preparation for FIBA Asia. They would play in the MABA in preparation for this year’s tournament.

Ecstatic about his new opportunity, Jones quickly accepted and would be off to Asia for the first time in his life.

Not so fast

Asia is no cake walk for first time travelers. Getting there is more than half the battle.

“This was my first time going overseas and they had put military time on my plane ticket. I had the military time confused with another time and I thought we were boarding at 11:00 p.m. So when I got to the airport the guy at the counter told me, ‘That flight left at 3:00 p.m..’ At that moment I thought ahhh man I just missed my opportunity to play basketball overseas,” said Jones.

“On my way back home I’m trying to hold my tears back. I messed up.”

“So I get home, I’m stunned about this military time error and still wondering how I got it all wrong. I couldn’t believe it. The only thing left to do was try and get on another flight.”

In order for Jones’ to get to Malaysia, he had to first layover in South Korea. Trying to get a last minute flight with Korean Air is no easy task.

“I would call one day and the guy would say, ‘We have seats on the first flight but the connection flight is sold out.’ So I called later on that day and the guy said, ‘We have seats on the second flight but nothing available for the first flight.’ It was back and forth like that.”

Jones tried one last desperation call to the airline.

“The guy answered the phone and was like ‘I got a seat for you on the first flight and the second flight.’”

Finally Jones was in the air en-route to Asia.

Part 2 to follow.

Nick Bedard (@bedardnick) is the editor-in-chief of Basketballbuddha.com.

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