COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Believe even when those around you doubt your potential.
“I knew that I could do it,” said former Westwood High standout Russell Jones Jr. “I had that chip on my shoulder. I wanted to prove everybody wrong.”
The Blythewood native lives out a dream playing Division One hoops at Winthrop.
“I’m thankful for these blessings,” Jones said
Jones’ faith guides his purpose. Basketball provides an arena to thrive. Growing up, those outside his inner circle doubted his potential in the game because of his height.
“A vivid memory from middle school days was like, ‘you’re too short to lead this team,’” Jones added.
Faith and family kept Jones’ spirits up. The 5′8 Eagles sophomore guard had big goals.
“I always set my goals high for myself,” Jones mentioned. “I ride or die. I map them out.”
Jones made the varsity team at Westwood in his freshman year. A signal to him that his dreams were achievable.
“That’s when I told myself you’re not going to allow anybody to tell you there’s nothing you can’t do,” Jones said. “You’re going to work at it. If God allows it to happen, it’s going to happen.”
The summer before his senior season Jones awaited his first D-1 offer. The Eagles swooped in, offering a home to spread his wings.
“Always doubt creeps in,” Jones said. “All God’s timing.”
And the time is now for Jones to play on the grandest stage college basketball offers at the ‘Big Dance.’ Jones credits all his coaches, trainers, and family for not allowing others to shorten his dreams.
“My mom and dad are my biggest supporters,” Jones said. “They’re soaking up this moment as much as me.”
Jones and the Eagles also won’t allow outsiders to influence their mindset entering the tournament.
“We were all recruited here on this one word, which is advance,” Jones added. “Everything we do here is an advanced mindset. Advance means not only to make it to the tournament but to go deep into the tournament.”
Winthrop’s run from the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis begins Friday against Villanova in the first round.
Jones loves football and hoped to be a Redhawk varsity football player. He was practicing with Westwood his senior season. A month into it, Gamecock Cam Smith, a former Westwood star, tackled Jones so hard in practice he wound up injuring his shoulder. Russell’s mom stepped in and ended those high school football dreams. Let’s say mom knows best.