By Cary Shuman
Nkrumah Jones is winning basketball games and earning the respect and admiration of his players as he guides his student-athletes on to the next level in their academic careers.
Jones led the Bunker Hill Community College Bulldogs to the Massachusetts state championship and the Region 21 championship that qualified the team for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Nationals in New York. The team finished a historic season with a 25-10 record in a dynamic new athletic facility in Charlestown.
In recognition of his exceptional leadership, the 48-year-old Jones received the Coach of the Year Award for the New England region. He has a 76-75 record in five seasons at the helm.
A former standout in the powerful Cambridge Rindge and Latin program and 1,000-point scorer at Bunker Hill, Jones was an assistant coach in the late 1990s at Revere High School on Tony Ferullo’s staff, leading the Patriots in to the State Tournament. Jones’s son, Janard Jones, played for this year’s RHS team and will attend the Hyde School in Connecticut this fall.
“Nkrumah is one of the most outstanding individuals that I have met in all my years in basketball,” said Ferullo, head coach at Mystic Valley Regional. “He has an incredible knowledge of basketball, knows how to teach the game and he inspire players on and off the court. I knew he was headed for success as a head coach and he’s helping to put Bunker Hill on the map nationally.
Jones was an assistant coach for four years at Salem State College. He has also developed basketball talent in the Greater Boston Lions AAU program that laid the foundation for some of the current Revere High girls basketball players that helped the Patriots advance to the Division 1 North final this season.
Jones, who teaches at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, is credited with turning the BHCC program around and sending many players on to four-year colleges where they have continued their basketball careers. This season 6-foot-8-inch Fredens Deneus was named a Junior College Honorable Mention All-American. Division 1 schools are recruiting Deneus for the 2016-17 year.
“That’s the whole mission of junior college – to move forward,” said Jones. “I recommend junior college for students who want an opportunity to try to increase their academic progress as well as their athletic opportunities. A lot of kids play high school basketball and don’t realize that making the transition to Division 1-2-3 basketball is a tough road and you have to train for it, especially in the classroom. That’s the key component I try to push the most – getting in study skills, life skills, and learning how to be on time and be a professional.”
Leroy Gibson, a tireless recruiter with whom Jones founded the Greater Boston Lions AAU program, Isaiah Bradshaw, and Maurice Long are assistant coaches at BHCC.
Jones credits his former mentors for instilling in him the right priorities that he now preaches to his junior college athletes.
“I’m trying to reach young people in the manner that was taught to me by my high school coach, Mike Jarvis,” said Jones. “My college coach was Pete Saitta. The one thing they instilled in me was to make sure you are a person of character, a person that cares, and a person who tries to give back to the community. So that’s why I like to be a mentor. My reward is seeing students graduate and being successful.”
An alumnus of Salem State University, Jones has had some opportunities to coach major college basketball and his success at BHCC will certainly generate notice among Division 1 programs. He just returned from Buffalo where he coached the Haitian national team in the World Games. He is currently studying in the Northeastern University Sports Leadership Program.
“One day I’d like to become an athletic administrator and really effect some type of change and continuity in a young person’s success,” said Jones.
Jones is certainly helping student athletes at Bunker Hill prepare for their futures in basketball and in life.
“We’ve built a program that can stand alone at this time and we’re known as a place where you can develop and move on to your next destination and that’s something I’m very proud of. My main goal is to prepare these student-athletes through Bunker Hill so they can receive college degrees. ”