In 2015, Gonzaga made the Elite Eight in Houston behind efforts from seniors Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos, but that tournament run is still proving to be fortuitous today.
Current Gonzaga player Jeremy Jones sat in the stands in Houston watching the game as a fan. He decided to reach out to Gonzaga staff after the run and it eventually landed him a Bulldogs jersey of his own.
It is no surprise to Jones' high school head coach Jeff Sweet that the San Antonio product is succeeding at Gonzaga.
“He was the smartest kid I’ve ever coached,” Sweet said. “He was absolutely dedicated to his teammates and to the program. Over at East Central, we had a pretty rich, storied basketball program and he really embraced being the leader of that team on the court and off the court. He was a great player, a great competitor and he’s the best kid I’ve ever coached.”
But Jones' athletic path wasn’t always leading him to basketball. After high school, he decided to play quarterback at Rice.
Sweet, on the other hand, had a different vision.
“When he was getting ready to go to Rice, before his senior year, I reached out to a few coaches. A couple in the Big East, a couple in the Big 12 and said, ‘Hey, you really need to take a look at this kid because if you could get him off the football field – which he loved – if you could get him to commit to basketball year round he could be a special player.’ He’s kind of showing that now," Sweet said.
Sweet’s vision for Jones certainly turned out to be correct, as Jeremy has become a key bench player for the Bulldogs.
“He’s embraced that role of a defensive stopper,” Sweet said. “He can guard a point guard. He can also guard a big guy. He rebounds the ball incredibly well. He blocks shots."
"You can always see him on the bench energized and cheering for his teammates. That’s the kind of kid he is and he’s been like that ever since I’ve known him," Sweet continued.
As Jones heads into his final NCAA Tournament, his coach has a special message for him.
“I wish all the best for him. I hope Gonzaga cuts down the nets. I’ve already written them in the championship game in my bracket to win it all," he said. "Good luck Jeremy and if you ever get to see this, I hope the best for you, not just in the tournament, but for the rest of his endeavors in basketball, and wherever else it takes him.”