Jones’ injury took place on June 20, 2011, while he was playing for Creekview in a scrimmage, and it put his dream of playing basketball at the next level in jeopardy.
“I hadn’t really put myself out there to colleges yet,” the shooting guard said. “I was depending on having a great senior season to land me some offers. But, once I got injured, everything started to go downhill.”
Despite a lack of urgency in finding a college to play for, Jones had already impressed a number of schools, including the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
But once the injury happened, interest in Jones waned as he was forced to miss the first 10 games of his senior season.
Though doctors thought that Jones would be sidelined for at least six months, he worked hard in rehabbing his knee and was on the court playing again in five.
Sherrie Jones, Duncan’s mother, vividly remembers the first time her son took the court after his injury.
“I’ll never forget the first time he went out there,” she said. “He was out there in a leg brace. After the game, he came over to my husband and started crying, saying, ‘Mom, it works. I can play again.’ Others thought he was hurt, but he was really just overjoyed at being back out there.”
Jones finished out the season with Creekview averaging 10 points and five assists in the final 18 games of the season. He was even named to the all-Region 7AAAA team.
Jones was unable, however, to find a college that was interested in him.
“After my injury, coaches lost interest, and it was hard to get them out there,” he said. “At the end of my senior season, I realized I might not get the chance to play in college.”
It was then that Jones made the decision to take a year off from his education, hoping to land a scholarship next year. But over the summer, a friend of Jones’ invited him to an open practice at Reinhardt.
Though he was the youngest player on the court, having only just turned 18, Jones immediately impressed new Reinhardt coach Jason Gillespie with his determination and work ethic.
Before Jones showed up for the tryout, Gillespie had never even heard of him.
“After the first practice, I remember turning to my assistant and saying, ‘Who is this kid?’” said Gillespie, who was hired in July to succeed former Reinhardt coach Jeffrey Pourchier. “He always played hard. Some days, he was even the best player on the court. The more we saw him, the more we liked him.”
Jones understood that he was a disadvantage in the tryout camp.
“I was the new kid at practice, so I didn’t get passed the ball much,” he said. “So, whenever I had a chance, I did what I had to do to impress the coaches. They saw that I hustled, got rebounds and worked harder than anyone in the gym.”
After three practices, Jones scheduled a meeting with Gillespie to talk about his future. It was there that he planned to try and convince the coach to give him a scholarship for the 2013-14 season.
“I just went up there to convince him to bring me in next year,” Jones said.
What he received was entirely different, however, as Gillespie — on the spot —offered Jones a scholarship for the upcoming 2012-13 season.
“It was a great, great feeling. It blew me away that I could have a chance to play this year,” Jones said.
According to Jones, the only person who may have been more excited than himself was his mother.
“She was ecstatic,” he said. “She was afraid that taking a year off would make it hard for me to go back to school, and she just wanted me to go to somewhere. When I told her that I was going to Reinhardt on a basketball scholarship, she was super excited.”
With the scholarship in hand, Jones now realizes that he will have to fight for a place on the Eagles’ roster, and as their youngest player, it will be difficult.
But he isn’t afraid of the challenge.
“You’ve got to work hard, and I’ll always work hard and make the most out of everything that I do,” Jones said. “Either you quit or keep going. I’ve always been told that. And I’ll keep going.”