I had a chance to speak with former Huskies Forward Bobby Jones who recently released a documentary made about his life playing basketball overseas. The very first recruit signed by Lorenzo Romar when he took the job at Washington, Jones was picked in the NBA Draft and carved out a career playing in Italy. Although his career in Europe may not be over, the documentary is a revealing look at life outside of the NBA.
The movie which Jones released on July 24th entitled, "Basketball Jones: The Overseas Journey," chronicles the paths of American players in Europe. Jones came up with the concept for the documentary while playing in Italy. "There's a big void on what people know about overseas basketball in America," Jones explained. He did a bulk of the work including coordinating interviews, editing, producing, and coming up with the music for the documentary among other things. "It wasn't easy but definitely worth it," Jones said of his passion project. The documentary was Jones’ second attempt at chronicling his journey as a first try was scrapped as he was unhappy with what was made. "I wanted to make sure that the message was the right message."
The documentary was time consuming and came out at a financial cost to Jones. He self-funded the project as he estimates he spent $50,000 to $60,000 on it. "I figured who better to fund the film but me," he added, "[m]aking films is not cheap. Costs start adding up."
The movie gives a sobering look at the state of basketball for Americans playing in Europe. Including Jones, the film looks at 9 players (7 men, 2 women) talking about a variety of subjects including the pros and cons (mainly cons) of playing in the D-League, which leagues overseas have the best competition (and pay well), fans in Europe, missing family and other details that many U.S. basketball fans never knew about playing abroad. "Everybody in the film are friends or people I played with," explained Jones as to how he cast his movie. "Everybody has a different story on why they came [to play overseas]." Jones coordinated the interviews around his practices and times when he could get other players to meet him to be interviewed.
A fan of television and movies, Jones relied on his instinct to shoot the movie. He also hired cinematographer Will Harris to help him. Aside from the player interviews, the movie gives a brief biography on Jones and captures his daily life in Italy. Harris was referred to him by former Husky guard Justin Dentmon. Harris had worked with Dentmon on a project for him.
As one might expect, a part of the documentary focuses on longing for America. "I missed everything," said Jones. "Being able to go to stores and purchasing certain brands, certain shoes." Of course, missing family was another issue of being away from home for 9 months out of the year. With a young daughter, Jones saw the movie as a time capsule of sorts that his daughter could look back at this point in their lives and see the reason why he was away. The season in Italy starts before the NBA season and ends after the NBA season. "There’s only one game per week but there are a lot of practices," informed Jones. "It wears down your body a lot."
Jones still spends some of his off-season in Seattle as his 8 year old daughter lives in the area. Being away so long from his daughter is one of the reasons why he contemplates the end of his playing days. He still keeps in touch with the UW program and Coach Romar. In fact, Romar makes a cameo in the documentary. He also keeps in touch with some of his old teammates including Mike Jensen and Jamal Williams. He also had the chance to play against Tre Simmons last season.
Jones played with the Huskies from 2002-2006. He was a second-round draft pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves but was sent to Philadelphia in a draft night trade. Jones spent 2 years in the NBA with 6 teams. After a year in the D-League Jones decided to head to Europe to play. Jones has played in Italy for 6 seasons. Prior to playing in Italy, he had only been outside of the U.S. one other time as part of Team USA playing in the World University Games in 2005.
He recalls his best NBA memory was when he was on a 10 day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies and they played the Seattle Supersonics. Jones recalls he was told 10 minutes prior to the game that he would start. He had the best game of his NBA career with almost a triple double. Jones scored 20 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and doled out 7 assists in a `124-100 win over the Kevin Durant-led Sonics. Jones received another 10 day contract with Memphis based on his great play in that game. Jones has more stories like this in a memoir he is currently working on that he hopes to complete soon.
At this point, Jones is not affiliated with a team in Italy but should know soon whether he will be picked up by another team. Even if Jones does not head back to Italy, he seemed upbeat about what the future will bring. Jones pictures himself doing more writing and films. He is proud of his self-made project and eventually hopes it will lead to future opportunities.
Jones has had three private screenings of "Basketball Jones: The Overseas Odyssey" including one in Seattle last week. Reviews of the movie (including this viewer) have all been positive.
You can either rent or purchase the film here.