Nothing Can Get Bernard Jones Down
Jan. 23, 1996
NEW YORK (AP) _ About an hour before the St. Joseph's-Fordham game tips off, Bernard Jones sits in the bleachers with his warmup suit on, smiling, laughing, talking about how many things can go wrong in a 22-year-old life.
Plenty has gone wrong in his life, but his broad face remains bright throughout the chat, and his big hands and long legs suggest he should be on the court shooting around with the rest of the St. Joseph's team.
The metal crutch next to him stretches across two rows and is the only clue there's something wrong. Bernard Jones never lets on there is a problem.
``This rehabilitation is going along better because I've been through it before,'' Jones said, pointing down to his right knee. ``An hour and a half a day, six days a week with the trainer.''
All that work isn't aimed at returning Jones to playing shape. Four major operations in three years ended all thoughts of Jones ever returning to the court. The work now is so Jones can get rid of that crutch and continue his remarkable run at life.
Almost anyone associated with the St. Joseph's basketball program can recite what Jones has been through. He lost three of the most influential people in his life _ his father, grandmother and great grandmother _ in a three-year period. A fire in his apartment destroyed almost all of his possessions. Then there were the knee injuries, each major.
Jones, a native of Philadelphia who played at Roman Catholic High School, averaged 11.6 points and 6.5 rebounds as a sophomore starter for the Hawks. His first knee injury _ a shredded patella tendon and broken kneecap _ came in a summer league game. He reinjured it in a fall at home and missed two full seasons.
But he came back, fighting a weight problem to return for practice this season.
``I went from 220 to 285. I got teased a lot with all the nicknames, but that was another inspiration, so in a way that helped me,'' Jones said. ``It wasn't easy, but I did it. I never quit. I'm such a competitior and if you are, you always are.''
He was going to play as a senior. It may not have been the way he did as a sophomore, but he was going to play. First-year coach Phil Martelli started him in the first home game and there wasn't a dry eye in the house when he was intorduced. Two rebounds in seven minutes. It was a start.
The next day, Jones was participating in a drill. He grabbed a rebound and turned to throw an outlet pass. The knee went again.
``He got hurt helping us in a drill and that made it hurt even more,'' senior forward Reggie Townsend said. ``When he screamed, you knew it was over and tears just came to your eyes. When he got hurt, a part of me got hurt.''
Jones hasn't left the team for a minute. He's at every practice. He's on the bench every game.
``He's a man's man. He holds everybody accountable,'' Martelli said. ``If he sees something in practice, in the game, in the dorm, that he doesn't like, he's going to call them on the carpet about it and talk to them on a personal level. He'll tell them his opportunity is gone, it's been taken away, but it's still his team.''
Jones was asked if some higher force decided it was time for him to get some good breaks for a change, what breaks would he wish for.
``There would be so many I would want to ask for,'' he said with a laugh. ``Actually, I'd just ask to stay alive and be healthy. You never know. There are people dying of AIDs and so many other things. I've always been lucky to be around my team and the school and the people who have always been there for me.''
Townsend said he has dedicated his season to his teammate, and half his statistics go to Jones, who by that way of thinking had 7 1/2 points and 4 1/2 rebounds in the 68-64 victory over Fordham.
``He'll tell me at halftime `Hey, we need some big numbers this half,''' Townsend said. ``I knew he'd find a way to get back with us even if he had to be wheeled across the court. He would do anything to make any contribution he could to his team.''