Following In Her Father’s Footsteps

58 Feb Cover

Submitted By Erin Kirwan

Mailee Jones grew up around basketball. In fact, her dad, David “DJ” Jones, played professional ball for thirteen years in Europe. From the time she was a baby, Mailee was always at the gym with her dad. After 13 years, he left professional ball to become a coach and trainer and founded the youth basketball organization, Shooting For Success. Mailee would watch her dad as he trained little kids and other professionals. She was often by his side to watch game film. Today, across San Antonio and around the world, DJ is known as the “Shot Doctor.” Most notably, he helped “fix” the shot of none other than Brooklyn Nets star, Jeremy Lin.

One day, when Mailee was around the age of six, she asked her dad if he would consider training her. The request surprised him and what happened next shocked the professional-turned-coach.

“I was like, okay, she had never really shown much of an interest in playing so far, but I put a ball into her hands and told her to go out on the court,” Jones said. “She began shooting really well and with good form. I thought to myself, all this time as I was training others, Mailee was absorbing all that training, too.”

Mailee went on to play for her dad and Shooting For Success, and, later, as a high school athlete, helped lead the Reagan Rattlers Women’s Basketball Team. Last year, she graduated Cum Laude from Reagan with a scholarship to play ball at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Although not a huge basketball school, Youngstown was a place where Mailee felt she could make a name for herself, a lot like her dad did, a generation before at Concordia University Texas. DJ too had wanted the opportunity to stand out and help put a school lesser known for basketball on the map…and he did just that. Now, it was to be Mailee’s turn.

This fall, for some of her first college games, DJ and his wife, Diane, were in attendance to watch and cheer on their daughter. It was not an easy game trip to make.

“The game was in Hawaii – now that’s a long way to go for a game, however, there was no way I was going to miss it,” Jones said.

In the game against Hawaii, the college freshman scored 12 points and had three assists in 18 minutes for the Penguins, earning the San Antonio native a spot in the starting lineup in a game the following day. In that game, in just 24 minutes, Mailee Jones netted 18 points, had five rebounds and two assists. She nailed all three 3-point-shots attempted. Due to Mailee’s contributions, Jones was named “All-Tournament” and interviewed by the press after the game.

In the meantime, DJ was able to just sit back and take it all in.
“I was so proud,” he beamed.

And how did Mailee feel about having the man who taught her everything she knows about basketball, so close by, watching her college debut from the stands? Was the college freshman nervous? Or did she instead push herself to play even harder? Neither, according to Mailee. She was excited to have her mentor just footsteps away, but in the mindset of this young player trying to earn herself more playing time, a more permanent spot, and most importantly, a win for her team, Mailee simply had one thought. She had a job to do.

“I play hard for my team every opportunity I get,” said Mailee. “Whether my dad can be there or not, I’m focused on the game.”

They words are not surprisingly very reminiscent of a work ethic displayed by someone else, some 30 years ago.

Mailee will likely stay in Ohio over summer break, according to Jones. She plans to seek an internship, and, of course, train. For that, David will make trips to Youngstown, now a location with a permanent home on his GPS.

As for the future, Mailee’s dreams are big. They are bright. The college freshman hopes to play in the WNBA, and someday, would even like to open her own steakhouse restaurant. And they are without a doubt, dreams, supported by her professional basketball record-holder father.