Athlete Profile with Cameron Jones
You have to start somewhere
On the court, he is a star. Off the court, he is a history major with plans to be a teacher and a coach. But senior guard Cameron Jones means so much more to the NAU men’s basketball team than that; he is their veteran leader and caring friend.
Jones was born in Fort Lewis, Wash., but he calls Los Angeles, Calif., his home, having played high school ball at Los Alamitos High School. Growing up in a basketball-oriented family, it was easy for Jones to immerse himself in the game.
“My family — especially my mom and my cousin — were my biggest influences for basketball,” Jones said. “My mom played basketball when she was in college at the University of Puget Sound, and my cousin played at Stanford, and now he is in the NBA.”
Jones’ cousin, Landry Fields, was a four-year player at Stanford before being drafted in the second round of the 2010 NBA draft by the New York Knicks. It was Fields, Jones said, who pushed him during their days as high school teammates to be the player he is today.
“I’ve always looked up to him,” Jones said. “He is a year older than me, so everything he does, I try to duplicate.”
Fields was able to mentor Jones, now a senior and star of his own team, and get him ready for his final year of college ball. Like Fields, Jones must get ready to be the face of his team through the good times and bad.
“He just told me there is a lot of added pressure your senior year because scouts are looking at you,” Jones said. “But he said go out there and play. You have to play your game, act like nobody is in the stands and do what you got to do to help your team win, and everything will fall into place.”
Leading by example
The Lumberjacks, picked to contend for their first Big Sky Championship since 2007, look to Jones for leadership. He is one of five seniors on this year’s squad, but head coach Mike Adras said Jones has been a leader for this team for quite some time.
“He has really accepted the fact that he’s got to be vocal and be able to lead by example, as well,” Adras said. “It’s always a plus when one of your best players is your hardest worker, and I think as an example to the guys, he has been great. What he says to guys — not just on the court, but in the locker room, on the bus, on an airplane — those things are important because everyone is looking for him to be that leader.”
Jones’ leadership qualities do not go unnoticed by the NAU coaching staff, nor are they overlooked by his teammates. His roommate and fellow-senior forward Shane Johannsen said Jones is not only a good friend of his, but someone who is there for him and the rest of the team when they need him most.
“He is someone we always look to,” Johannsen said. “He’s such a vocal person, and when things are going good or when things are going bad, we can look to him, and he can pick us up. He presents the kind of energy that can get the whole team going.”
Jones has accepted his role and is determined to be the vocal leader for the squad. His on-the-court talents and leadership are what his teammates attribute to his success.
However, Jones is most proud of what he does outside the gym. As evidenced by his nomination for the 2010-11 Lowes Senior CLASS Award — an accolade given to a senior at the Final Four ceremonies who exhibits notable achievements in the community, the classroom, character and competition — Jones said he and his family take great pride in those things. Jones said caring for teammates, friends and the community are important to him during his college career.
“Off the court, I’m most proud of being a good teammate,” Jones said. “Some teammates don’t really care about their team, but I feel that I’m a really caring teammate. I keep in touch with everyone I’ve played with through all my years of basketball. I feel really comfortable being the leader of this team, and my role is to help everyone pick their game up and for me to lead by example.”
The big dance and pro ball
NAU, and especially Adras in recent years, has seen many alumni play professional basketball after hanging up their Lumberjack uniforms, whether they play in the NBA (Dan McClintock), on the Canadian national team (Kyle Landry) or overseas (Josh Wilson and Ruben Boykin Jr., to name a couple). Johannsen said Jones can be a big name on that long list after graduation.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he is going to play somewhere, whether it’s the NBA or overseas,” Johannsen said. “It’s 100 percent that he’s going somewhere. He is one of those players that has the talent to do it and can rise up to any level of competition.”
His coach said he fully believes in his talent, but Jones’ focus is elsewhere.
“I don’t think he’s worried about that right now,” Adras said. “I think he’s worried about helping this team be successful, and he realizes that if he does what he is supposed to do, those opportunities will certainly present themselves.”
Jones does not snuff the idea of playing professional ball, but he does agree with his coach. Instead of setting his sights on paychecks and fame, he is aiming for more immediate but sentimental goals: playing in the NCAA tournament.
“[To play in] the ‘big dance’ is real important to me,” Jones said. “I’ve won a championship in every level I’ve played in, so the last step is to win a [Big Sky] championship while I’m here. That’s my all-time dream. Growing up, I watched the tournament on TV, and now I want to be there, too. It is a huge goal for me and the team to make it there, so hopefully we can get it done.”
Jones’ humility and obsession with leading his team have taken over his thoughts, which now lead to one consistent objective.
“Right now, I’m focusing on college,” he said. “The NBA is always going to be there, and there [are] going to be pro leagues all over. I’ll worry about the pro stuff when college is done, but right now, my focus is to help this team win and get us to the dance.”