About three weeks ago, I interviewed Braxton Jones, a junior point guard at Trenton Catholic from Monroe Township, New Jersey. We spoke for about 55 minutes about basketball, his life, his goals and more – the typical topics of conversation.
I close every interview by asking the same question: is there anything else you’d like to add? It allows the interview subject an opportunity to tell me anything I may have inadvertently missed during our conversation and that they forgot to mention previously. Most people say nothing, but occasionally someone accepts my open invitation.
Braxton Jones took me up on it.
“I just want to say who I’m grateful for and who I appreciate, if I can?” he asked.
“I appreciate and am grateful for my mom and my dad for giving me the opportunity to play, especially when it comes down to AAU,” Jones continued. “They take me all the way to New York. Even though my dad works in New York, he comes back to Jersey, and then takes me back to New York to go to practice.”
He explained that the drive to practice for his AAU team, ProScholars Athletics (PSA) Cardinals, takes well over an hour without traffic and two with, meaning his father, Garon Sr., often spends two hours in New York metro traffic to get home from working at the Long Island Railroad just to turn right back around and spend at least another 75 minutes to return. And a final trip back after. Braxton noted his mother, Bernadette, has done the trek plenty, too.
That’s the level of dedication the Jones family has to Braxton’s basketball dreams, and that’s the level of appreciation he has for their efforts.
Braxton Jones has played for PSA Cardinals since seventh grade, putting his family in its fourth year of regular New York road trips. He first learned of the program in sixth grade by watching its run in that year’s televised Peach Jam, an annual event the elementary school student had always watched. Jones learned the team was in New York and that tryouts were approaching. He tried his luck, and he found himself in the program the following season.
He’s been there since.
Jason Forde was his coach when Jones entered the program. Forde is a co-founder of PSA Cardinals and serves as Middle School Director at the program. He first met Jones the day the seventh grader showed up at tryouts.
“I was one of the coaches who was running that workout when Braxton showed up,” Forde said. “Braxton stood out right away to me, not because of his size or anything like that, but a lot of the intangible things he did – paying attention to detail, having good eye contact, picking up on things quickly, asking questions, trying to figure things out. Then when we got out onto the court, he could shoot, and although small, you could see he was trying to figure out the game and play the type of pace we like.”
It didn’t take long for Forde to offer Jones a spot in the program. At the end of the workouts, Braxton Jones had been invited to join PSA Cardinals.
Now, Jones is a PSA veteran, and he’s committed to the vision the program lays out.
“One thing they always say that I love is you own your own destiny,” Jones said. “It’s so true. That’s a really big thing to me.
“To me, it means that nobody can choose your destiny for you, it’s up to you,” he added. “What you do on the court and what you do to prepare to be on that court, is what you’re going to get out of the game.”
That’s part of why Jones watches film of himself as part of his regular routine, which includes two basketball sessions and a strength and conditioning workout each day. He switches between game film from AAU and high school to keep an eye on himself and the competition.
“I like to study my game, figure out what I could have done better,” he explained. “Also, some of the teams we played from last year, we play again, so I love to see what they have coming back, too.”
He’s been doing this since seventh grade. Garon Sr. films every game Jones plays in and records the entire game, not focusing solely on his son or pausing when he goes to the bench. This is unique, Forde said, as recording for highlights only is much more common.
“I’ve known families that have recorded games, but they also record the games only when their child is playing and not the whole game,” Forde said. “It’s a testament to what the Jones family is doing to film the whole entire game. Braxton is watching it to study, which is great thing for me as a coach. You have a kid who’s hungry for knowledge of the game, and now you’re just teaching him how to study.”
Jones credited his film-watching habits for improvements defensively and in vision and distribution offensively. He was also sure to thank his family for also being at his games and always having the camera ready.
Forde said he hasn’t seen many families more focused and supportive than the Joneses.
“I couldn’t ask for a better, more supportive family in all the ups and downs in a kid’s development than the Jones family,” Forde explained. “I’ve never seen a family that wants their success as they do while doing it in a healthy, balanced and grounded way.
“They make sure he understands the value of education, he understands the value of getting to practice, working hard and doing all the things you’re supposed to do – being ready for your moments when the time comes.”
Jones does not yet have any offers. He’s earned interest from Holy Cross, Iona and Princeton, among others, but his recruitment hasn’t been as busy as others in his basketball circle. The pandemic hasn’t helped, but interest in the point guard is beginning to pick up, and Braxton Jones knows his moment is approaching.
“With how much I put in my game, I know my time is coming,” Jones said. “I’m not worried.”
In part, he knows that because of his parents’ work. Virtually everything they do is to help him pursue his dreams, he said.
“They do things that I can’t see any other parents really doing for anyone else,” Jones explained. “It sounds crazy, but it’s basically their whole days. They’re doing this with maybe four or five hours of sleep, and I just can’t believe it.
“They always tell me they’re proud of me, but I know that I want to make them even prouder,” he added. “I know that one day, I’m gonna be able to.”