Virginia guard Teven Jones beats the streets - The Daily Progress: Sports

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Virginia guard Teven Jones beats the streets

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Posted: Saturday, July 13, 2013 8:45 pm | Updated: 7:45 am, Sun Jul 14, 2013.

His father played football and basketball in college, but quit after two years in favor of a life on the streets and is now in a federal prison.

His uncle had a scholarship to play football, but he too is now locked up.

His half-brother also had a full ride for football before landing behind bars.

Yes, there is a pattern here.

But Teven Jones, who grew up around more crime and violence than many University of Virginia students will ever know, appears determined to carve his own path.

“It’s rough where I come from,” the redshirt sophomore told The Daily Progress in a recent interview. “I’ve seen a lot of kids like myself either end up dead or in prison, or they’re still at home doing things [they] shouldn’t be doing.

“I feel blessed having a mother who wouldn’t give up on me.”

That would be Tyra Jones, who has worked three jobs while raising her son. Her strict style of parenting has helped get Teven to where he is today — at one of the elite universities in the country on a basketball scholarship.

“He’s still a little hardheaded sometimes,” Tyra Jones said, “but I can give him a look or raise my voice one time and he’s gonna know, ‘Mama don’t play.’”

Students at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis, N.C. can likely attest to that.

A few years back, when Tyra got wind that Teven was being a “class clown” in a Spanish class, she says she decided to come sit in on the class.

For the rest of the semester.

Jones says that with the school’s support, she attended the Spanish class from roughly October to December. She says she didn’t care that she was the only parent in the classroom and might be embarrassing Teven.

“I said, ‘If he wants to be a class clown, I’m going to be a class clown with him,’” she recalled. “It paid off...I think it paid off for all the students.”

Kevin Taylor, as assistant principal at A.L. Brown, says Tyra Jones’ mere presence on campus often did just that.

“She was here a lot,” said Taylor, with a laugh. “And there were other kids that she tried to make go down the path that Teven did.”

Principal Kevin Garay certainly hasn’t forgotten Tyra Jones. Garay specifically recalled conversations concerning a U.S. History class that Teven was taking.

“She came in several times in an effort to get information about improving his grade,” wrote Garay in an e-mail.

Outside of the classroom, Jones was known much more for his skills on the gridiron, where he was a standout wide receiver, than on the hardwood.

He had scholarship offers to play football at East Carolina, Appalachian State and Clemson but no basketball offers.

Jones elected to take a postgraduate year at Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro in an attempt to earn Division I attention.

Jones and his mother say it was one of the best decisions they ever made — and not just because it eventually led to a basketball offer from Virginia.

At Fishburne, a place chock full of rules, Jones had no choice but to become more disciplined.

Susan Johnson, the assistant superintendent at Fishburne, says Jones came a long way in just a few months at the school. 

“I like the fact that when I look at this child, I see the manifestation of our efforts,” said Johnson, who has been at Fishburne for 30 years. “He wasn’t here very long, but he learned [the lessons] real well.

“It was like a flower opening. It was just amazing. If Fishburne did anything, it was to give him the guidelines that work in life.”

Jones’ Virginia career got off to a rocky start, though, when he was suspended for last season’s opening game for an unspecified team rules violation.

However, when he returned, he was inserted into the starting lineup and helped lead UVa to an 8-1 record, which included an upset at Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

“I would say I had a mediocre season,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t say I had a great season, I wouldn’t say I had a bad season — just right in the middle.

“What really surprised me was the speed of the game and the strength. When I’m in the weight room now I say, ‘I will never get bullied again.’”

In his time at Virginia, Jones has never been one to shy away from giving his opinion.

A check of his Twitter account makes one wonder how he has time to accomplish anything else in a given day.

Jones has tweeted over 30,000 times, which is roughly five times more than any current UVa teammate.

You never know what Jones will say on Twitter or at what time of the day or night he’ll say it — something that surely keeps the Cavalier coaching staff on their toes.

Last season, Jones made occasional comments that hinted at unhappiness over playing time.

However, Fishburne coach Ed Huckaby says one of the things that impressed him most about Jones’ first season was his team-first attitude. He says every time he watched a UVa game, he could see Jones pulling hard for his teammates, whether he was playing in the game himself or not.

“I think he [did] a very good job in terms of just accepting a role and stepping into a sense of, ‘It’s about the team, not about me,’” Huckaby said.

During the season, Jones watched as Virginia added point guard recruits Devon Hall and London Perrantes.

Given the number of players who have transferred from UVa in recent years over playing-time concerns, there was speculation that Jones could follow suit. 

However, Jones says that was, and still is, the furthest thing from his mind.

“I love competition, which is why I’m still here,” he said. “I’m not running away from any competition.

“We’re just going to compete every day and whoever gets the starting job gets the starting job. I’m going to control what I can control and play as hard as I can and leave it all out there on the court.”

Virginia associate head coach Ritchie McKay, who recruited Jones — he first spotted him at an obscure tournament in North Carolina — says his effort has been “terrific” throughout the offseason.

“We like his progress,” McKay said. “Certainly, it’s competitive out there with Malcolm [Brogdon] returning and London and Devon. We’ve got a few guard options, but Teven’s holding his own and he’s doing a good job. 

“The more he develops his decision-making, the more it will give him a chance to contribute.”

McKay says Jones needs to become more of a “caretaker” when he’s on the court and resist his natural urge to try and do too much offensively.

To that end, McKay — who was overseeing the UVa program while head coach Tony Bennett was with the United States U19 Team in Prague — has also been encouraged.

“I think his maturity is showing,” McKay said. “I don’t know about his minutes [for the coming season], but what I do know is he’s starting to overcome and be able to steer [through] adversity.”

Growing up, there were plenty of chances to veer off course.

Jones vividly recalled hearing gunshots that hit the father of a friend one evening.

“I’ve been to a lot of funerals,” Jones said.

Tyra Jones has always used Teven’s father, uncle and half brother as examples of what can go wrong if you make poor decisions. 

All three were caught dealing drugs.

Jones says her brother (and Teven’s uncle) had a full scholarship to play football at Georgia Tech.

“One guy showed him a lump sum of money and he was a young guy and his eyes got wide and that’s all he became focused on,” she recalled. “He thought he could make some good money and then go to school, but once he started making that money he forgot all about school and that he had that scholarship.”

Jones, who works for a veterans home in North Carolina, takes care of an elderly woman and also styles hair, says her brother occasionally calls Teven from prison. She says he urges him to avoid the kind of trouble that he found.

It’s the same trouble that Teven’s half-brother got into.

“He had a full ride to Maryland for football,” Teven said, “and he just got caught up in the street life.”

Teven’s father, meanwhile, who Tyra says played football and basketball at Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C., has never been around.

When asked about his dad, Jones just shook his head.

Tyra Jones says Teven’s father will be in a federal prison in New Jersey until at least 2018. She says he didn’t acknowledge Teven as his son until seeing him during a broadcast of a game from prison two years ago. 

At that point, he asked if he could contact Teven.

“I told him, ‘I don’t think this is the right time to be a father to him right now,’” she said.

Huckaby, who has helped a number of kids from challenging backgrounds earn college scholarships, believes Jones is on the right track.

“He had every opportunity to go about a criminal path and a criminal career,” Huckaby said, “but he didn’t do that.”

Tyra Jones says the only time she worries about her son is when he returns home to Kannapolis, N.C.

“There are other kids who are not doing what your child is doing and influence them to do wrong things,” she said. “When Teven’s home, I don’t sleep. When he’s at Virginia, I’m sleeping so comfortable because I know he’s in good hands.”

Huckaby believes past mistakes of family members don’t dictate Jones’ future.

“Can he break that bad cycle?” Huckaby said. “Every individual has to live their own life — and he’s done that. He’s done everything that he’s been asked to do.

“I can’t be any more proud of a young man in terms of the effort he’s been putting into it.”

Jones himself seems surprised at how far he’s come. Recently on Twitter, he marveled at the fact he had made it to the age of 20.

Jones, whose best friends on the team are Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill, says he owes everything that he has achieved to his mother. He says her working three jobs is all the motivation he needs to stay on the straight and narrow.

“I don’t want her to be working anymore,” said Jones, who has pro basketball aspirations. “I’m trying to get to that next level. I’ve got goals here and bigger goals in life to just try and take care of my mother.”

Tyra Jones has always kept her message to her son simple.

“I told him we have so much talent in our family and so much of it has went to waste,” she said. “I said, ‘I refuse to let you follow that lead.’”

Those words are always running through the UVa point guard's head.

“She reminds me all the time,” Jones said. “She says, ‘You got this far. There’s no reason to mess up now.’”

The Teven Jones File

Favorite movie: “Friday” and “Coach Carter”

Separated at birth: Jones and actor Chris Tucker bear a striking resemblance. “Everyone says that,” Jones said. “I get that a lot.”

Favorite NBA player: Kyrie Irving

If you could meet one celebrity: Barack Obama

Favorite UVa class: “Learning to groove” (a music elective)

Major: “I’m leaning toward African-American studies, but I may go with sociology.”

One thing people don’t know: Jones sleeps with a basketball. “Before I go to bed, I kiss my basketball,” he said.

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