NBA CAMP: One on one with Dahntay Jones

We sit down with the former Blue Devil small forward who recently retired from the NBA to discuss his career path, the reason he moved from Rutgers to Duke, and the relationship he maintains with Coach K and his program.

To start Dahntay I was hoping to ask you about a play that many Duke fans remember of your playing career. The push up dunk you did at UVA—how much do you remember about that play?

Dahntay Jones: I just remember that we were in the middle of a snow storm that day and it was kinda of an empty arena because people were on Christmas vacation or something like that and due to the weather, it was just very empty in there. I was just trying to be aggressive and get a shot.

You can see how your aggressive play affected the team in the time you played for them, what kind of mindset did you bring to the team when you first transferred in?

Well I played with a chip on my shoulder the entire time I was there because I knew there were a bunch of people who felt I didn't deserve to be there. Even when I transferred, people questioned my decision by saying 'Why are you transferring there, you aren't going to play because there's too many McDonald's All American's there', so i had a chip on my shoulder there the entire time.

That's how i played the best, just being aggressive and having that chip on my shoulder and just use that to motivate you as a player to play your best.

What really motivated you to consider transferring to Duke?

I wasn't happy in my current situation at Rutgers and I couldn't see myself growing as a person or player there. I wasn't happy with just being the best guy on my team and having all the shots there. I really wanted to grow and be tested and while I thought I was there, I knew I wanted to transfer to a school that would really challenge me.

I had a list of like five schools and then Duke called my AAU coach. To be honest, at first, I really wasn't interested but my dad told me to take a visit there, and I got down to Cameron and to Durham and they offered me and I really saw Coach K's mindset with the players and with how they treated them and their style of play and I fell in love with it to the point that I didn't take any other visits.

That will remind Duke fans of Jay Williams in that his mom encouraged him to take a Duke visit when he wasn't sure at first but then later became evident it was the right decision for him. For you, since you wanted to grow as a player and a person, how did Duke help you with that during your time there?

Well they challenged me mentally and physically. Coach K is great at motivating players in different ways and with me, and he motivated me the best way that he possibly could. With me, he found a way to keep pressing that button that helped me to continue to grow and to never be satisfied with anything, both as a man and a basketball player.

Once you went professional, what were some things that you learned in your career at Duke that helped you transition into being a professional athlete?

I learned how to actually play the game, which I think is something that is missing from kids today. Whether it's with skills or mentally, they don't know how to play the game or the game within the game. There was just a whole lesson of life and basketball at Duke that I wouldn't trade for anything.

At Duke I really learned how to be a professional in general. That included personally how to conduct yourself and how to prepare yourself as a player, how to read a scouting report, how to watch film, how to take care of yourself and how to be diligent and to really work at your craft.

You've now transitioned into other parts of the game...

Yep, I've been working with NBATV some and I've also been working with the coaching program here at NBA Camp through the Players Association program and I enjoy this part of the game.

I've also done an Executive program with the NBPA and I love basketball so much, I'm not sure yet what facet of the game I want to be involved in yet.

What was the motivation to pursue those avenues?

I just know that basketball is going to stop one day and, obviously, I do not want to be unprepared for that. I know that I have things to offer, I just need to start thinking earlier about that stuff so that I'm not panicking when the time comes and basketball stops for me.

The guys at the NBPA, they do an excellent job at feeding us knowledge and giving us options and I'm just trying them one by one as I have free time so I can see what i can grow from and learn. I'm not ready to transition yet, but in the same breath I'm not satisfied with not growing in my life. I want to continue to pique my interest for learning, I love basketball still and I'm still trying to keep my career going, I'm just hear to learn, I don't want to leave any stone unturned.

As we close Dahntay, obviously you are a few years removed from being a player at Duke—how's your relationship with Coach K and the Duke program, how has it evolved since you have left the program?

It's been amazing. Now that i'm out of the program our relationship is definitely different, but I'm so respectful of and grateful to Coach K as a man.

Now that I'm out of the program I see him in a different light, but I still have great respect for him and towards those guys, especially with how they mold guys and what they did to help mold me as a man and a player. I still check in with them as I need them and they are still there for me. We have a great relationship.

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