As Perry Jones accepted the home white Thunder jersey with the blue No. 3 stitched just below his last name, he had to check with general manager Sam Presti about something before sitting back down at his introductory news conference on Saturday.
“Is this mine?” Jones asked.
“Yeah, you can keep that,” Presti answered.
Meet the newest member of the Thunder, a player so accustomed to working for everything he gets that he wasn't sure his first pro jersey belonged to him.
On his first official day on the job, Perry Jones III, off the court, was everything he was cracked up to be.
He was happy yet humble, ready to start but eager to learn.
“When you get a chance to meet him, I think you'll first be impressed with his humility,” Presti said of the 28th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Jones will make his basketball debut with the Thunder at the Orlando Summer League on July 9. For now, he's just a 20-year-old stuck on cloud nine as he now wakes up each day living out what a week ago was still just a dream.
“It's still a whirlwind,” Jones said. “I've been nervous since they called my name (Thursday night). But I've enjoyed myself out here. But the process was a long grind, so it feels good to actually be somewhere that I can call home.”
Jones was forced to wait nearly three hours into Thursday's draft to learn where home would be. When team doctors throughout the league learned that Jones had a brief history of trouble with the meniscus in his right knee, it sparked panic among NBA general managers. They shied away from a talent who just a year ago was projected to be a top 10 draft pick. It's the main reason Jones is with the Thunder today.
“Everybody knows that I wasn't supposed to slide as far as I did,” Jones said. “But, to be honest, I'm happy I did. This is a great organization. I mean, this is the perfect spot. I think everything happens for a reason, and these guys treat me like family. So I'm more excited to be here than anything.”
Jones confessed that he didn't think “in a million years” that he'd be playing for the Thunder. Just minutes before hearing his name called, he even thought his shocking slide would continue.
“Actually, on draft night when the pick came up for them, I was thinking to myself ‘Well, they don't need me, so they're definitely not going to pick me,'” Jones remembered. “So I'm definitely honored that they decided to pick me, and I'm definitely going to work my hardest for you guys.”
For now, Presti and Jones both say the knee is a nonissue.
“It was basically just a previous injury that he had prior to getting to Baylor,” Presti said. “He's played two years and been incredibly consistent with it. It's just something that we have to watch as we go forward. Like we talked about, if there's anything that comes up from it we'll be proactive. But going into the situation, we're thrilled and we're looking forward to having him compete this summer.”
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