Jones in the Right Place at the Right Time


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By Jim McGill, Staff Writer
Posted May 6, 2015
If by BearInsider Staff or Contributor, this article is Copyright © 2015

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New Cal assistant basketball coach Wyking Jones
In a four week period full of pleasant surprises for Cal basketball fans, the hiring of former Louisville assistant Wyking Jones was yet another bit of good news for the Cal basketball program.
And for a coach making a cross country move to a program positioning itself to make a serious run at sustainable success, the timing couldn't be more perfect for Jones on the heels of announcements from recruits Ivan Rabb, Tyson Jolly and Jaylen Brown that they were heading to Cal to pursue their collegiate careers.
"Right place at the right time, right?" said Jones, with a laugh.
"When I saw Coach Martin was hired, in my gut, I sensed that he was going to do a great job. I'm not at all surprised by any of this.
"In the coaching ranks, Cuonzo Martin is very well-respected. When I accepted the job and was in the gym at tournaments in April, you would've thought that I'd won a national championship the way people came up to me and congratulated me for the move to Cal.
"It had everything to do with the fact that Coach Martin was so respected that they knew I was putting myself in a great situation."
It may have been a surprise to many that an assistant at one of the top programs in the country, earning a strong salary, would seek a move to Cal following their 18-15 season but to hear Jones speak, the move made all the sense in the world, particularly with his wife's family's roots so strong in Berkeley. Jones' mother-in-law works in the administrative office for Berkeley Law and his sister-in-law is a chair for the African American Studies department at Cal, as well.
"As a college basketball coach, you go where you feel the right opportunity is. When that happens, your family -your wife, your kids- they follow you along that journey. And for me, I'm a California guy, born and raised in Los Angeles/Inglewood, California and my wife -born and raised in Berkeley, California -all her family's here.
"For the past nine years, I've been away from home and my wife's been away from home, as well. I just saw a unique opportunity that after all of the sacrifice my wife and kids have made for me in my career, I saw an opportunity to come back for her, for me, for all of us and starting my journey here at Cal."
If a cross country move gave Jones pause, conversations with Martin and the Cal staff easily put those fears to rest of Martin and assistant coaches Yanni Hufnagel and Tracy Webster all move similar big moves. 
"They all really like the place," said Jones. "They saw the potential for this to be a great situation. And obviously, it's starting to look like that's going to be the case.
"They saw a lot of room for growth. They saw a lot of room for eventual greatness. And I saw those same things.
"In the last 3-4 weeks, there's just been event after event, from Ivan (Rabb) committing, to Tyrone (Wallace) deciding to come back to school and now Jaylen (Brown). So we're just all really excited about the direction that the program's taking.
"The excitement across the country -not just in the West Coast or not just in the Pac-12- and the buzz in the program nationwide (is evident).
"Like Coach said, players want to play alongside great players. We're just hoping with Ivan, with Tyson (Jolly), with Jaylen, the trend will continue that other great players will want to come play with these guys."
Coming on the heels of Rabb's commitment last month, what may have been nervous exercise in hope and patience for Cal fans was more or less a foregone conclusion to Jones observing Rabb's recruitment from afar.  
"The interesting thing about Ivan -I always knew that Ivan was going to end up here," said Jones. "I recruited Ivan when I was at Louisville. But at the end of the day, in talking to him in our conversations, he's a kid who's very proud to be from the Bay Area. He's a very proud Oakland kid.
"So when I saw Cuonzo Martin was hired at Cal, I thought that's where Ivan was going to go to school because he was going to want to play for Coach Martin and his staff. I kind of predicted that that was going to be the case.
"Now that it is the case, I'm very excited to work with Ivan and someone so talented. 
"For a kid that's so talented, at the same time, he's just a great kid. Humble, never is going to brag on himself.
"But at the same time, it's going to be great to work with all of the other kids because I keep hearing from our staff and from people around campus that we have great guys. As a coach, that's what you want. You want kids that want to be coached, that don't think they know everything, that want to improve and want to be in the gym. And from everything that I'm hearing from our guys, that's what we have here."
As for Jaylen Brown, Cal's latest addition?
"I've seen Jaylen play many, many times," said Brown. "You know Jaylen. Very talented and very exciting basketball player. And just to echo what Coach Martin was saying, with Jaylen, his competitiveness -he doesn't take plays off at either end. He's so competitive and so driven, he plays at such a high level that you just can't help but be excited about what he brings to the table for this program." 
As it stands, Jones' hire looks like the ideal hire for the Bears with his high-level coaching experience combined with the on-the-job training he experienced playing forward back in his playing days and his recruiting connections on the West Coast. 
"You want a guy who understands the importance of family, just like (former assistant coach) Jon (Harris) did," said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin. "You also want someone with experience coaching big men and could really take our big guys to a different level. Jon took a lot of pride in that. And you want a guy who's been a big guy (on the court, having played collegiately at Loyola Marymount).
"I wanted a guy who would not just coach them but get in their in practice.
"He brings all those things to the table so it was good to get him on board." 
To view Jones' comments in full from today's press conference as well as Martin's comments following the Jones hiring announcement, use the embedded viewers below:
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