Josh Jones was in great spirits Monday, joking and laughing with his Creighton teammates at practice. At one point, he did a little coaching from the sideline, telling Gregory Echenique he should have pump faked on a jump shot while counseling another teammate on how to beat a screen.
He even rebounded during a free-throw contest between teammate Mo Oginni and Brian Kooienga, the Bluejays’ graduate manager. Neither is known for his free-throw shooting ability but with Jones coaxing him on, Oginni won the contest.
That left Jones with a huge smile on his face, but then again, isn’t there always? Even with a surgical procedure that could determine the fate of his basketball future looming Tuesday morning, Jones remained the poster boy for unabashed positivism.
“I think it’s good for him to be here,’’ Creighton coach Greg McDermott. “He has a lot of support.’’
Jones has not played since Dec. 6, when he blacked out during warm-ups before Creighton’s game at Nebraska. Subsequent tests determined Jones suffered an atrial flutter, an abnormal rapid beating in the upper chambers of his heart.
Doctors on Tuesday will thread special wires into Jones’ heart and, using radio frequency energy, will try to locate the problem and fix it. It will be a month before Jones will know if the procedure was successful.
A scary proposition for anyone but Jones does his best to mask any fear.
“I’m sure there is some anxiety,’’ McDermott said. “We’d all be scared to death if we were experiencing it. But he knows he has a lot of people on his side.’’
Just as there were in 2007, when Jones underwent open-heart surgery shortly after starting his senior year at Omaha Central. His upbeat personality has won him a legion of fans since he came to Creighton. Social media has allowed many of them to reach out to Jones to tell him that he’s in their thoughts and prayers.
Jones told a visitor to practice Monday that he was doing well. He is well aware that things might not work out and that he’ll never play basketball again but he refuses to let that color his attitude.
At one point, Jones pointed to the corner of the court near the Creighton bench at the CenturyLink Center.
“When I come back,’’ he said, “that’s where my first shot is going to be from. Just like in high school.’’
It’s from that spot where Jones launched his favorite basket as a Bluejay. It came in a 2011 game against Oregon and Dana Altman, his former coach who made sure Jones knew before undergoing heart surgery in 2007 that the school would honor its scholarship offer even if he couldn’t play basketball.
Against Oregon, Creighton was clinging to a four-point lead and had the ball with about 90 seconds to play. The Bluejays wanted to run some time off the clock but Jones found himself with the basketball in the corner.
“I still remember there was like 29 seconds on the shot clock,’’ Jones said. “I know we wanted to run time but there was no one on me. I still remember coach Mac yelling, ‘Nooooo,’ and me taking the shot.’’
After the ball swished through the net, Jones turned to head back up the court. He ran past McDermott and gave his coach a little shoulder shrug.
“What else was I to do?’’ Jones said with a laugh Monday. “I’m a shooter.’’
A lot of people are praying that Josh Jones will get at least one more shot. I’m one of them.