Even as Kenny Jones is recognized elsewhere for his feats on a basketball court, he thinks of his roots at Wyandanch.
“I know a lot of people who move on from Wyandanch and when they get asked where they’re from, they answer ‘the city’ or ‘New York,’” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday, four days after being inducted into Kentucky State University’s Hall of Fame. “I tell people ‘I’m from Wyandanch — it’s on Long Island.’”
Jones, 34, helped turn the Warriors into an Island powerhouse a decade and a half ago. It was an era of basketball dominance by an Amityville program that captured four straight state titles. Playing in that long shadow, Wyandanch went 38-4 in the final two seasons with Jones, who was named to the All-Long Island first team in 2003 after earning all-LI second team honors the year before.
Today the 6-6 swingman still is playing professionally — for the Cape Breton Highlanders of Nova Scotia of NBL Canada — and now he has a plaque with his image that will hang in Kentucky State’s Exum Arena. He is the youngest athlete inducted into the school’s hall of fame.
“It was a humbling honor,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t have accomplished what I accomplished without great coaches and teammates. But it’s nice when the hard work you put in to make yourself better gets recognized in this way.”
Jones played professionally in Argentina the previous four seasons and also has played in Germany, Chile and Mexico.
“I am blessed to have been able to see the world and make a living playing basketball, the game I love,” he said. “Getting to play professionally from a Division II college is not the easy road, but I believe the hard work and the people around me helped me get on it. I will stay on it as long as my body lets me keep playing.”
The arc of his career began simply enough — with him shooting baskets outside his house. It was there that Andre Edwards, a coach from the AAU team Project Hoops (now called Team Underrated), spotted him. “We were from the same neighborhood, but I’d never been on that block before,” Edwards said. “There was this big kid shooting a basketball.”
Jones remembers with some embarrassment that Edwards took him to a facility where kids played and that when he emerged from the locker room to play, he was wearing jean shorts and a button-down shirt. “I didn’t know what people wore to play in those things,” he said.
“We got him a proper shirt and he went from there,” said Edwards, who attended the Hall of Fame induction. “Kenny was always different. There are plenty of people from the neighborhood who end up going in the wrong direction. He was never interested in that.
“Kids in Wyandanch should see Kenny and know what is possible for them. There are paths to success.”
Jones, who chose to live in Kentucky during the offseasons, said he remains in touch with several of his Warriors teammates, including Saadrac Numa and Steffan Bumpers. “Those were some great years, when we blossomed into a powerhouse,” he said. “We never got past Amityville but we had an impressive team.”
He said that he tries to return to Wyandanch whenever he’s able to do so.
“I owe everything that’s happened to me to Wyandanch and the people who helped me as I worked hard,” Jones said. “I’ve never forgotten it. I give it all to Wyandanch.”