Freshman Jeremy Jones' proudest moment since joining the Rice Basketball team wasn't sinking his very first collegiate shot attempt - a three-pointer - in his first game action.
"It felt good to make my first basket," Jones said. "But I just know I have a very long way to go and I just have to keep working."
No. For Jones, a redshirt freshman for the Owls' football team, his best moment so far in his brief tenure with the basketball team had to involve the type of contact more commonly associated with play on the gridiron than in basketball.
"I would say my best moment so far was taking a charge in a game last week."
Well, of course. Who doesn't like standing in the way of an oncoming opponent, knowing that collision is imminent and you are going to take the full impact of it?
"It's something that Coach (Mike) Rhoades wants everyone to do. In high school, the best athletes on the court never took charges. When I got here to Rice, I actually had to learn how to take charges. So when I got one in a game it was a good feeling. My teammates got really excited for it, too."
In addition to putting his body in harm's way for the good of the team, Jones has had to overcome another obstacle on his way to the court at Tudor Fieldhouse.
"I had shoulder surgery after my senior season in March, so I didn't pick up a basketball for seven months. I would say the hardest part is that I'm still not fully back into basketball with my ball handling and shooting. Just getting back and getting familiar with basketball again after not playing for seven months after my surgery has been the hardest part. While it has been hard, Coach Rhoades tells me to just play with high energy and that has helped me get by so far."
Jones actually suffered the shoulder injury during the fall football season but went on to earn all-district honors at San Antonio's East Central High School. The quarterback threw for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing four games due to injury.
Being a fierce competitor and an all-district performer in basketball as well, Jones delayed surgery until after basketball season so that he could compete in his senior year.
Jones joined the Rice basketball team after the Owl football team's regular season ended over Thanksgiving weekend. In that short time, he has seen action in five games and is shooting 75.0 percent from the field, including that first three-pointer which came just five days after his first practice with the Owls.
Jones says that his experience joining the team, well after his teammates began working out together in the summer, has been a smooth transition.
"It was real nice and everyone embraced me. I was already friends with and had classes with a lot of the other players, so it was an easy transition for me. I had talked to Coach Rhoades when I first got on campus in June and we stayed in contact and built a relationship through the fall."
Those relationships helped Jones quickly acclimate to the college game, despite having focused on football and adjusting to college life for a majority of his first semester on South Main.
"I think it was actually easier for me to come in and get going because I got to sit and watch some of the practices and watch the team play. In the practices, I saw what Coach Rhoades was about, too, so I got to evaluate the coaching style as well. When I stepped in, I knew what they wanted and expected and that helped me with the transition."
No one makes that drastic transition alone, and Jones is no different. He points to one of the Owls' senior leaders as someone that has helped him hit the ground running.
"I would definitely say Seth Gearhart has helped me the most. He has a great grasp of things as a senior. He's a great leader and he makes sure that I know what's going on and that I'm in the right spot. He encourages me and makes sure my head is on straight. He is like a reflection of the coaches sometimes. Seth will tell me to play with high energy and to talk on the court - things like that."
Jones has also received support from his other team as well as the football program has kept an eye on the two-sport athlete.
"Coach (Billy) Lynch texted me recently to tell me he is proud of me for my academics and that he's proud of the whole basketball team and what I'm doing. I also talked to Coach (David) Bailiff after our last game and he just told me to keep working hard."
The freshman understands that he has a unique opportunity to participate on two teams while working towards his Rice degree. That fact was not lost on Jones during the recruiting process and is something he continues to appreciate.
"It was very important to me to have a chance to play both sports. It's definitely not something that either Coach Bailiff or Coach Rhoades had to let me do. I make sure to take advantage of that opportunity since it doesn't happen often. I'm embracing it and working hard."
Jones played four minutes and grabbed a season-best two rebounds against his hometown team as the Owls notched a 67-52 win over UTSA in the Conference USA opener on Jan. 2. Jones is already looking forward to the March 5 meeting with the Roadrunners in front of a friendly home crowd.
As the Owls focus on league play and the start of the spring semester next week, Jones will certainly be ready to take advantage of each and every opportunity he gets with the program.
El Paso, Texas
Men's Basketball Drops Overtime Heartbreaker at C-USA Championship
Rice University men's basketball had chances to win in regulation and again in overtime, but neither buzzer-beater fell through as the Owls dropped a 63-62 decision to North Texas in the Conference USA Championship opening round game.