USA Basketball Honor Worth the Wait for Dominique Jones
He’s been a college basketball player, a Harlem Globetrotter and will be a father in September.
But before he gives fatherhood a spin, 31-year-old Dominique Jones will be part of the USA 3x3 basketball team that represents the United States at the first-ever Pan American Games 3x3 basketball competition, which will take place July 26-Aug. 11 in Lima, Peru.
The sport was added after the International Olympic Committee added 3x3 for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
The 5-foot-9 Jones, who had a brief stint with the Harlem Globetrotters before discovering 3x3, has been selected to compete on a USA Basketball roster for his very first time.
“It’s an honor to represent my country,” said Jones, who plays for NY Harlem on the FIBA 3x3 World Tour. “Being able to play a game I love with USA across my chest is something I dreamed about as a kid. You dream about playing in the NBA and representing your country. There’s no better feeling than that.”
3x3 differs from the full-sided five-on-five game and is played on half-sized court. There are no jump balls — a coin toss determines possession to start the game — and made shots from within the arc count as one point, with two points for shots made from outside the arc. Games run 10 minutes or to 21 points, whichever comes first. In case of a tie at the end of 10 minutes, the team that scores two points first wins the untimed overtime.
Jones is one of four players on the USA Men’s 3x3 Pan Am Games Team that includes former Princeton University player Kareem Maddox and NBA G League players Sheldon Jeter and Jon Octeus.
It’s been a long road for Jones to represent his country, but it’s a road he’s been willing to take.
“I put the work in, so I expected it at some point,” said Jones, a two-year star at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, where he led the team to NCAA Division II Tournament appearances as a junior and senior point guard in 2009-10 and 2010-11. He shot 80.0% from the free-throw line and 40.2% from beyond the arc.
Jones played professionally in Europe until he and a few friends accepted an invitation from Jessica Villaplana, who coached some of them on the AAU circuit, to play in one of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour qualifiers she was running back in 2015.
“She knew us from our younger days, convinced us to try it, and it’s been all uphill since then,” Jones said. “We were skeptical at first, but I’ve been doing this the last five years now, playing in countries around the world on the FIBA World Tour.”
Jones, who played guard in five-on-five, is ranked as the No. 2 player in the United States in 3x3. In previous 3x3 tournaments, USA Basketball had been selecting set teams that had won national events. Jones’ team came in second at nationals, but still there was hope.
“We knew this year they were going to pick the best players at the USA national tournament, so I knew I had a shot,” he said.
USA Basketball has won gold medals at the U18 and open levels in 3x3 World Cup play, so the pressure definitely is on for “Disco Domo,” who got his nickname from a DJ who knew him during a skills exhibition playing street ball.
“That’s most definitely a motivator,” Jones said of the success of previous USA 3x3 teams. “You don’t want to be that person that doesn’t bring back gold for your country.”
Jones, who works in a juvenile justice center in New York City, says he feels blessed to be in this position.
“So many people are happy for me and the things I’m doing, the level of competition I’m playing at,” he said. “I’ve definitely grown as a player. I’m a little guy at 5-9, and little guys have to do things differently. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. People look at me and think I can’t get the job done. Then I go out and try to prove everyone wrong every time I step between those lines.”
In Peru, however, he’s looking to prove USA Basketball made the right choice in choosing him.