Overcoming long odds nothing new for Robert Morris star

Written By kom nampuldu on Jumat, 20 Maret 2015 | 18.18

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Lucky Jones won't have any fear Friday night. The NCAA Tournament stage won't rattle him, and neither will top-seeded Duke and its gaggle of NBA prospects.

Sixteenth-seeded Robert Morris' senior forward has dealt with too much adversity to let a basketball game faze him.

Odds were against Jones living past the age of a toddler. He was born with Hirschsprung's disease, a condition in which nerve cells in the colon don't form completely. Jones needed several surgeries and had to wear a colostomy bag until the age of 2. But he survived, growing up in rough and tumble Newark, developing into a Division I basketball player.

"I don't take anything for granted because my life could've been over with the snap of a finger," the sculpted, 6-foot-6 senior said on the eve of the Colonials' South Region second-round contest in Charlotte. "I'm just blessed to be here."

His mother, Vicki, named him Lucky because of his condition. People were drawn to him because of it, and whenever he hit a shot, the response was funny, like his talent was the result of his name.

"I love my name, I wouldn't take it back for [anything]," he said.

He was a late bloomer, a talented basketball player but a perplexing one at St. Anthony of Jersey City. Academic woes scared schools off. His allergy to defense limited his playing time.

But then his senior year came and he became a different player, a versatile force for legendary coach Bob Hurley Sr., averaging 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds for a team that went a perfect 33-0 and won USA Today's mythical national championship.

In the biggest high school game of the year, the North Jersey Non-Public B championship, Jones shut down St. Patrick star Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, who went on to win a national championship at Kentucky the following season and be taken second overall by the then Charlotte Bobcats in the 2012 NBA Draft.

"It will be something we talk about forever," Hurley said.

He carved out quite a career for himself at Robert Morris, a 1,000-point scorer and the program's all-time leading rebounder. He really has come into his own of late, leading Robert Morris to its first NCAA Tournament since 2010, and coming up big in the First Four victory over North Florida on Tuesday, with 21 points, seven rebounds and five steals.

"He's talked all about the things that are important to help us win games at this point in time," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said, "and I think he understood, or he finally realized here in the last month, that the only thing he hadn't accomplished as a player was being a part of the NCAA Tournament."

Jones has a 1-year-old son he is raising, and he hopes to play professional basketball to support the child. He will graduate in the spring with a degree in management. But he wants more before beginning the next phase of his life. Jones has played against — and beaten — some of the best players in the world. Friday night is another opportunity.

"It's a tremendous opportunity for us to go out there and shock the world," Jones said. "My first few years here at Robert Morris, we [beat Kentucky], we beat [St. John's]. We have to just go out there and continue to play the way we've been playing, don't take anything for granted, embrace the moment and go out there and have fun.

"We have a lot of heart, we have a lot of toughness, we go extremely hard, and we have the talent in my opinion."


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