Talkin’ Hoops With Sam Jones

By Tony McClean
Updated: November 22, 2005

Sam JonesRALEIGH, N.C.-His basketball signature was the bank shot, but Hall of Famer Sam Jones was much more than a player with a great shot. In a career that saw him play under two Hall of Fame coaches (John McClendon and Red Auerbach), Jones has left a permanent imprint on basketball in the CIAA and the NBA.

Arriving at North Carolina Central just in time to play for the legendary John McClendon, Jones became one of the Eagles’ greatest players in school history. When Jones graduated in 1957, he left as NCCU’s all-time leading scorer with 1,745 career points.

Later that year, he became the first CIAA player to be chosen in the first round by the Boston Celtics. Under the reign of Red Auerbach, Jones earned his way into the Hall of Fame by scoring over 15,000 points, 4,000 rebounds and 2,000 assists.

Since his retirement, Jones has become a fixture at the CIAA Tournament with fans and friends. BASN got a opportunity to spend a few quality minutes with the ex-Celtic star to talk some hoops.

BASN: What’s it like for you to come back to the CIAA Tournament every year?

SAM JONES: I simply enjoy it because it gives me a chance to visit with some dear old friends every year. The whole week give us the opportunity to really spend time with each other. It’s like a basketball homecoming for me.

BASN: You were lucky enough to play under two Hall of Fame coaches in John McClendon and Red Auerbach. Tell us a little bit about playing with them and the differences between the two.

SJ: I enjoyed my time with Coach McClendon because he gave you a lot of lee way. But he was also a little dictator like Red was with the Celtics. They both stressed discipline and fundamentals and that’s still important today.

BASN: Did Coach Mack help prepare you for the pros?

SJ: He didn’t really help you prepare for it because I never thought about playing professional basketball when I was in college. It was just a way of getting an education. I really feel that the preparation for basketball is done in the middle schools and the high schools. You don’t get to college without having some talent.

BASN: What was it like playing for Red Auerbach?

SJ: Red had a simple system that you had to adapt to. When you play under a coach that doesn’t make things hard, it makes things much easier. The one thing that I liked about playing under Red was that he felt that you shouldn’t come to camp to get into shape. He felt you should stay in shape all year so that the day training camp opens, you were ready to play the first game.

BASN: What was it like to be the first CIAA player to be drafted in the first round by the NBA?

SJ: It was something i really didn’t think about at the time. I was glad to be drafted but I didn’t want to go to the Celtics at first. I wanted to go to the Minneapolis Lakers or Philadelphia 76ers, but neither of them picked me. But it all worked out for the best in the long run.

BASN: You were always known as the master of the bank shot during your playing days. Where did that get started?

SJ: It was something that I was able to develop in high school and in college. I carried it with me when I played in the Army and when I reached the pros. It was my shot and I had a lot of confidence in it. There weren’t a whole lot of folks using the backboard in the NBA, maybe about five players including myself.

BASN: The Celtics had a revival last season under Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker. Do you still follow the Celtics?

SJ: Always, they’re still my team. There are some things that they still need to improve on. I think they still have a chance to do some things when the playoffs come along.

BASN: Mr. Jones, it’s been a pleasure. Enjoy your retirement and the rest of the week here in Raleigh.

SJ: Thanks, Tony.