Q&A with Trey McKinney Jones on his call up from the Mad Ants

Trey McKinney Jones was back at the St. Vincent Center in Indianapolis on Wednesday. He took part in his first Pacers practice since the calendar turned to 2018.

He was with the Pacers for Summer League and then in training camp, but a shoulder injury forced him to only watch in camp. The 27-year-old was not drafted after graduating from the University of Miami, and so he joined the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

This year, he was on his fourth stint with the Mad Ants with three stops overseas in between. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound wing started in five of 26 G League games this season and averaged 11.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game.

On Wednesday, before the Pacers gathered for their first practice since the All-Star break, McKinney Jones signed a 10-day contract with the franchise.

That was something he has been waiting a long time for. In fact, he’s the first Mad Ants player ever signed to a 10-day by the Pacers. It was not something they did before Kevin Pritchard took over as team president, as he did on May 1, 2017.

McKinney Jones will be with the team for games against opponents at the bottom of the standings who are both competing for draft positioning: Atlanta (2x) and Dallas.

Sporting a No. 10 practice jersey, McKinney Jones made his way to the east side of the practice courts for media interviews. Read what he had to say in a Q&A below:

McKinney Jones shoots free throws with Alex Poythress after practice.

You were with the team already in camp, did you have an inkling that something like this may happen?

It was a surprise and good news to me. Just being with the team in the preseason, even though I couldn’t participate, just makes this process a lot easier for me because I’m familiar with the guys and the coaching staff.

How has your game grown the most in your time in the G League?

I would say just my experience, the mental aspect of the game. Coming in my rookie year (2013) until now, I would say the game has really slowed down a lot. That was the biggest part.

For Pacers fans unfamiliar with your game, what can they expect from you?

Somebody who is gonna work extremely hard, take pride on the defensive end, and just making the right plays – whether it’s taking the open shot, making a good pass, but I mainly take pride in defense.

You’ve played more of the shooting guard spot up in Fort Wayne, right?

Yeah, it’s … the way we play two and three are pretty much the same, we just call them wings. So I would say two and three are interchangeable.

Were any expectations for your role discussed with Nate McMillan or Kevin Pritchard?

No, I haven’t. My only expectations are to just come here and learn from the guys, learn from the coaching staff, try to soak it all in and get better.

Have you had the chance to talk with Kevin yet and what he is wanting to see?

I’ve had many conversations with KP but since I got the call about this opportunity, I haven’t spoken with him.

Because of this, you are not participating in the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifier. Is that a bummer at all, although I’m sure a 10-day contract is more important and special to you?

The opportunity to play for Team USA was an honor for sure, to represent your country. I was definitely looking forward to it, but that opportunity was to open doors like this for me. When my agent said that I wouldn’t be able to participate in that, I wouldn’t say that I was bummed. I was more happy about this opportunity that I’ve been waiting for … for the last — this is my fifth year out of college — too many years in the G League. It’s been a long road so I was definitely more excited about this.

How do you keep a positive attitude through those years, and the perseverance to stick with it for opportunities like this?

My uncle, Mark Jones, he played professionally as well for the Orlando Magic but he kind of took the same path that I took. He played many years overseas, he was in the CBA back in the day and now it’s the G League. It was the D League when it started and he finally got his call later in his career as well. He kind of instilled [in me] to not give up on my dream if I really have a dream to get to the NBA and to grind it out, go make money overseas here and there when you need to. But if you have a dream of playing in the NBA, the G League is the quickest way and the best way to get there.

Your Mad Ants teammate Dequan Jones went to All-Star Weekend and won the G League Slam Dunk Contest, were you able to watch that live?

I was [smiles]. I was actually his personal camera guy. It was great. I played with him in college (at Miami) so I got to witness that everyday in practice. I wouldn’t say he lost it a little bit, but what he was doing in college was very, very impressive. I’ve seen a lot of his tricks so I knew what he had up his sleeve.

Why did you decide to wear number 10?

You know what, everything else that I wanted was taken. I don’t know.

What would have been your top choice?

I was four in college.

Yeah, that one is definitely taken.

That one is definitely taken. My second choice would have been 13, or something like that. I’m not too picky.

Last thing, how should your name be punctuated? Is there a dash (aka hyphen) in your name?

It’s a long story. It’s never been a dash. Legally there’s no dash. Legally my name is just Jones, as of last summer since I got married. I figured it would be easier to change it all at once for the family, keep it simple. I know two last names can be confusing. For the ease of the family situation, my last name is technically just Jones.

But when I started playing professional and all throughout college, it was McKinney Jones. I would just put the dash on the jersey so that it didn’t all blend together. I’m so used to seeing it with a hyphen that it doesn’t bother me.

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