Overwhelmingly, the reason most players transfer from the Arizona Wildcats is a lack of playing time.
That wasn’t the case with MoMo Jones. He took off in May 2011 after starting at point guard as a sophomore for a UA team that made a surprise appearance in the Elite Eight.
Jones said he left in order to be closer to his grandmother, but at the same time, the Wildcats were one over the scholarship limit and had a highly-touted point guard in Josiah Turner coming in.
As it turned out, Turner proved a bust on and off the court, the Wildcats slumped into the NIT in 2012 — and Jones spent his final two college seasons at Iona, where he led the Gaels to two straight NCAA tournament appearances and was the nation’s third-leading scorer (22.6 points per game) as a senior in 2012-13.
But during all that, Jones never lost his bond with Tucson. He said he returned the next summer, and the next. And, this summer, he’s back to run a skills camp for 10-18 year olds. The camp will run June 19-22 at the Lohse YMCA, with the $100 fee being donated to school supplies for children.
Jones discussed the camp, his departure and his first professional season with the Star while returning to Tucson over the weekend to handle camp signups.
Are there any hard feelings over leaving?
A: “There’s no hard feelings. I actually came back the summer going into my junior year (2012) for a week and a half, talked with Coach (Sean) Miller, talked to (then-associate head coach James) Whitford, got to talk to everybody. Me and Coach Miller talked one-to-one and cleared the air.
“Then the summer after my senior year, I came back out. I’ve been there every summer and talked to coach Miller every time I’ve been there. Talked to Book (Richardson, assistant coach) too.”
“I definitely think about what it would have been like had I stayed and things like that but sometimes you gotta make the best decision you’ve gotta make. That was more so for me, and what I needed then was being close to family, being close to grandma. It helped me grow into a man. It definitely helped a lot. I do miss Arizona, don’t get me wrong. I miss all my friends and all my buddies are there.”
Why did you decide to hold a camp here? (Jones is also holding one in New York later this month).
A: “I wanted to do it in places that have had an effect on my life, so I figured what better two places than Arizona and New York? In Arizona, me, (former Wildcat Kevin) Parrom and (former UA guard) Mark Lyons will be running it and Derrick (Williams) will be at the New York camp.
“It’s a skills academy and all the proceeds are going to my foundation. We’re going to give 150 book bags of school supplies to kids in Tucson and New York who can’t afford them. (Expenses) are all out of my own pocket.”
Have you, Kevin and Mark Lyons stayed pretty close?
A: “We all go back a long way. I’ve known Kevin since I was about 8. I’ve known Mark since I was about 12. And we’ve all kind of played together at some point in our lives so it will be good to get back together and catch up on things we’re doing. Jamelle (Horne, a former UA forward from Tacoma, Washington) will also be there.”
What were your experiences in Japan and Qatar like?
A: “Totally different. Japan had just two imports on each team and in Qatar you had four and could play together the whole game, so the structure was different. In Japan it was more slow down the game and pound it inside. But we had an American coach who wanted to run. We played an exciting kind of basketball. In Qatar, it was more balanced. I knew a lot of guys who were out there so it was more fun in Qatar than Japan.
“In Japan, they’re all about the business aspect of things, very structured, by the book with everything. In Qatar, it was more like being home. It was a beautiful country. I was living in a hotel, but in Japan I had an apartment and had to cook. In Qatar, they gave me three meals a day. It was definitely different. But you learn something from both.”
What’s next? Are you trying to get on an NBA Summer League team or with another overseas team?
A: “My agent is working on that. Of course, I want to come back over here. I’ll try to get on a Summer League team or into a mini-camp but I won’t know anything until after the (NBA) draft is over. That’s why I wanted to do my camps before that so once the draft is over, I’m ready to go.”