Track guru Erwin Jones had big plans for his son, Cedric Jacobs-Jones.
He was a national age-group champion in the javelin when he was 10. He also had sprinter’s speed.
“As a coach, you see that and know it’s going to develop into something,” Jones said. “I knew Cedric had the talent to be a college track athlete.”
But one day, the Paradise Valley High graduate woke up and told his dad that he was going to focus on basketball.
Now, Cedric Jacobs-Jones in on the brink of holding up a college championship trophy, as a member of the only undefeated men’s college basketball team in the country.
Whitman College, located in Walla Walla, Washington, is 31-0 and plays in the NCAA Division III semifinals on Friday in Salem, Va., against Babson College (29-2).
Jacobs-Jones, a 6-foot-3, 227-pound sophomore forward, averages 17 minutes, 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds.
“After the initial shock (of Cedric saying he was giving up track), I told him he was going to eat, sleep and dream about basketball,” Erwin Jones said. “He kept a basketball with him at all times, and I knew to keep him with someone like me to train him.”
Jones had his son train under Glendale Apollo senior guard Holland Woods’ dad, who has the same first name.
Jacobs-Jones also spent two years under Phoenix Shadow Mountain coach Mike Bibby in his Team Bibby club program.
Those two men taught him the value of work ethic and how intense training can take him places.
“Track growing up I felt I had to do,” Jacobs-Jones said. “My dad was the coach. Growing up, I felt like branching off and doing my own thing. I had a love for basketball. That was the focus of my attention.”
The elder Woods gave Jacobs-Jones the nickname, “Baby Barkley,” early in his basketball development, because of the similar style of play he had to the former Phoenix Suns great Charles Barkley.
“He saw the passion I had for track, so he just transferred it over to basketball,” Jones said of his son.
Jones calls Cedric’s mom, Joann Jacobs, “the rock.” She took him to most of his practices, games and training sessions.
“He does everything to make her proud,” Jones said.
Jacobs-Jones went to college with academic aid, feeling an education in sociology from there will take him far in life.
Now, he’s living the dream, something very few people at any level in college get a chance to be part of – a Final Four.
He played a key role on Paradise Valley’s 2013 state championship basketball team when he was a sophomore.
He believes this Whitman team can make history.
“Coming into our first exhibition game this season, just watching how we came out, I was like, ‘Wow, we could be good,’ ” Jacobs-Jones said. “We were playing a Division II team and killing it.
“Winning every game was definitely a goal. We go into every game believing we can win. The more we play, the harder we play for each other. We’re fighting as brothers.”