In his mother’s memory

Men’s basketball sophomore Ja’Kwan Jones’ season has taken on new meaning after his mother passed away in January

By on February 22, 2017
IMG_8732Erin Kane | The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Toughness. Strength. Courage.

For Quinnipiac men’s basketball sophomore Ja’Kwan Jones, these are much more than just words – they are ways of life.

On Jan. 16, 2017, Jones’ mother, Valerie Carlton, passed away due to an unknown form of cancer, just about a month before her 40th birthday. Having lost someone so close to him, Jones was determined to do right by his mother.

Although Carlton passed away back in his home in North Carolina, Jones and his family needed support to raise enough money to have his mother flown up to New York to have her proper funeral. Jones started a GoFundMe page online, where people could donate money and write a message to the host for the cause. The support was overwhelming.

“I didn’t really have a money goal, I just put a number out,” Jones said. “I was able to raise $10,000, which covered everything. It was really successful. We raised enough money and got her up here and everything worked out.”

The support for Jones and his family came from all over the place, including teammates, coaches and anonymous donors. Jones remained thankful for everything he received, no matter how much or how little the donation.

“All the support kept me going,” Jones said. “Everybody was saying to me how they didn’t know how I was being so strong, but the support that I was getting, especially from Andrew and Aaron [Robinson] kept me at peace. I could’ve went crazy without it.”

Brothers Andrew and Aaron Robinson, both sophomores on the team as well, lost their mother in November and have been there for Jones every step of the way.

“We just let him know that we’re there for him,” Andrew Robinson said. “He can depend on us for strength. From my end, I tried to help him out with what I did (in the same situation) and what helped me get through it.”

IMG_8713Erin Kane | The Quinnipiac Chronicle

While all the support is great, Andrew Robinson knows that words may not be enough to make Jones feel better. He believes that the only way to move forward is through positivity.

“There’s really nothing that you can say that will make it better, because words aren’t going to bring her back,” Andrew Robinson said. “The thing you have to do is just try to put it in perspective and turn a negative into a positive. That’s what we’re doing.”

Part of the healing process for Jones involves getting back on track and finding his rhythm at school. Since returning from North Carolina a few weeks ago, he has done just that.

“He has a really quiet toughness,” Quinnipiac head coach Tom Moore said. “He’s a great example of a kid who comes every day with the same level of consistency and effort. He shows up and does his work, and he’s reliable in the classroom as well. He’s a reliable young man and that’s a great quality to have.”

Early in the season, Jones earned limited minutes and was a relative unknown on this Bobcat team. In the first 18 games of the season before his mother’s death, Jones saw action in just seven of those games, never playing more than four minutes in a contest and only scoring one point total.

Since rejoining the team for a game against Niagara on Feb. 6, Jones has appeared in all six games, averaging 11.7 minutes per game. It has been a turnaround for a player who could not get off the bench early in the season.

“I wasn’t really playing much before her passing, and now I’m getting minutes,” Jones said. “It’s a blessing in itself. My life was already dedicated to her, but now it is even more. It’s not even just the basketball aspect. It’s a life thing.”

Jones’ teammates and coaches have been impressed with the way he has handled the situation, especially coming back and getting right back on the court so soon.

“For him to come back and play the amount of minutes that he’s played and produced after being gone for so long is hard to do,” Andrew Robinson said. “With him being home (in North Carolina) for a few weeks, not thinking about basketball in the slightest, then to come back and get right back in the swing of things and play right away, I think shows how tough and strong he really is.”

IMG_8705Erin Kane | The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Andrew Robinson knows just what Jones is going through, and that kind of praise reveals Jones’ mindset throughout the past month. Jones, more reserved and quiet than the Robinson twins, tends to shy away from the spotlight, and is more focused on improving himself.

“When the twins’ mom passed away, we had a team meal in honor of her,” Moore said. “It was a really nice night, really touching. We were going to do the same for Slink (Jones’ nickname), but he wasn’t comfortable doing that yet. I hope we’ll be able to do something for her, in her memory, maybe in the spring.”

The support from everyone is something that Jones will forever be thankful for. On their team warm-up shirts, the team motto “One Team One Heartbeat” is displayed over each player’s chest. Jones, now more than ever, feels that bond with his teammates.

“My teammates have been there for me,” Jones said. “They were texting me everyday. They wrote on the flowers that I dropped in with the casket at the burial. I spoke to Andrew and Aaron, and they would tell me what I should be doing in each moment and how to deal with it. The ‘One Team One Heartbeat’ motto shows how close we really are.”

This quiet toughness and eternal bond with his mother will continue to resonate with Jones, as he continues to mature and develop into the man that will make his mother proud.

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