Manchester Giants’ Jones looks outside basketball to keep club ticking

In sports, money tends to translate pretty well into success. But every now and then a team defies the odds by triumphing on little more than a shoestring budget.

So what does it take for David to beat Goliath? For Manchester Giants head coach Jeff Jones, the answer is simple.

“For us the trick is to get the right players for this club. We’ve got very specific things we look for in players. A lot of it isn’t even to do with basketball,” Jones told MM.

“Everything we do here is about our philosophy. To make up for having a smaller budget we have to play a certain way and that requires a certain type of player.”

Jones has no time for prima donnas who won’t pull their weight. His teams have always been full of industry and hard work, prioritising the collective over the individual. In that way the Giants very much reflect their city.

Not every young player dreams of playing this way, and that’s OK with Jones. A lot of the time this has meant he’s had to teach players himself, as they’ve risen through Manchester’s youth basketball scene.

Many leave for pastures new at some point during their careers, but many stay. Some even return, having grown accustomed to Jones’ brand of play.

Take Stefan Gill, for example. Like many young players before the Giants’ 2012 reformation, Gill grew up under the tutelage of Jones at the Magic. But after two years in Milton Keynes the 5ft 8in guard came back, now typifying what the Giants are about.

“Stefan’s a really important player for us,” Jones said. “He’s one of the older guys and he personifies on the court what we’re about. He never stops going. 

“On offence and defence he’s always there, always making the big play.”

While Jones is reluctant to take credit for the Giants’ unlikely success over the years, he concedes he’s played a big role in the education of many of his players.

“Have I had a part in that? Yeah, sure I’ve had a part in some of the guys’ basketball education and in their maturing.

“I’ve coached most of them as either a junior or early on in their careers and it’s a testament that they’re willing to sacrifice individual stuff to play team basketball. That’s where we make up for the size of our budget.

“I honestly don’t think about money too much. It’s almost secondary for us. For a lot of the guys here they’ve grown up in this city and they want to continue to play under the banner of this club.”

That’s why you’d be a fool to write them off this season. They’ve already toppled title favourites Worcester Wolves, and with a third of the season played they sit well within the playoff spots.

On Sunday they face the Cheshire Phoenix, who boast a roster full of stars like Julius Hodge, picked 20th overall in the 2005 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets. 

Logic says they’ll get trounced. Jeff Jones’ basketball would beg to differ.

Main image courtesy of Jack Hinds, with thanks.

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