Ever since Noel Jones watched Carmelo Anthony lead the Syracuse Orange to an NCAA championship almost a decade ago, he’s wanted to play Division I basketball at the New York school. The Dartmouth native is finally getting his chance.
Jones, a rugged six-foot-six forward who graduated from Halifax Grammar School more than four years ago, has suddenly emerged from obscurity and cracked the Syracuse roster as a training-camp walk-on.
“When I was younger, this was always my favourite team,” Jones said. “I remember watching Carmelo Anthony win a championship back in 2003 and for me, that really set up my whole love for the sport.”
Jones, who was born in Montreal but moved to Dartmouth when he was 11, was a two-time most valuable player at Halifax Grammar but eschewed numerous offers from Canadian Interuniversity Sport schools to head south of the border to pursue an NCAA opportunity.
He played a year at Marianapolis prep school in Connecticut, then took a year off before heading to Syracuse in 2010 to try to get noticed by the Orange coaching staff. But with no open tryouts in 2010 and 2011, he didn’t get a sniff. He almost gave up.
“I remember over winter break last year, I started looking into other schools seriously — I just wanted to get back playing,” said Jones, who got his first chance to train and scrimmage with the Orange this summer.
“Eventually I decided this was where I really wanted to be and stuck it out.”
Cracking the Syracuse roster is no small feat. The Orange went 31-2 last season and made it to the Elite Eight. USA Today pegs the team ninth in its pre-season NCAA poll.
Although it’s not clear how big Jones’s role will be, the regular season opens on Nov. 9 and he can’t wait to put on the Orange jersey.
“It’s been my dream to play in the NCAA as long as I can remember,” Jones said. “It means so much to get this opportunity. It’s really a blessing. I feel very fortunate.”
NOVA SCOTIANS IN THE NCAA
Recent Nova Scotians to play at the NCAA Division I level:
— G Chris Johnson, North Preston (St. Bonaventure, 2011-present)
— G Bryson Johnson, Lyons Brook, Pictou Co. (Bucknell, 2009-present)
— G Kenny Perry, Halifax (San Francisco, 2007-08)
— C Corey Hallett, Sandy Point, Sherlburne Co. (Central Michigan/Monmouth, 2002-07)