In the first of our ongoing series called “Catching up with Ryerson legends,” we talk with former men’s basketball point guard Jahmal Jones, whose basketball legacy lives on through his brother Jaren
BY RAINE HERNANDEZ
When it comes to discussing who the greatest player is in Ryerson Rams men’s basketball history, former point guard Jahmal Jones comes to mind.
If you check the record books, it’s hard to miss Jones’ name in almost every category. The family name has become a staple at the university over the years, and that started with Jahmal, all the way back in 2010.
Jahmal came to Ryerson wanting to become a significant part of an up-and-coming program that was led, at the time, by new head coach Roy Rana.
“It was the opportunity to make a difference and create something new,” said Jahmal. “I never saw Ryerson’s campus. I didn’t know much about the school.”
In his first season with the team, the Rams boasted an 11-11 record as the program was on the verge of a breakthrough. Every season after that, their win total improved. In Jahmal’s final season, they finished first in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East division with a 17-2 record.
Jahmal became a star on the court while Ryerson’s basketball program transformed into something special. But he also made significant strides off the court.
“When I first came in, I just wanted to get my four years and then get out. Obviously, that changed. [Roy] thrusted me in leadership situations,” said Jahmal. “It was a fresh start.”
Jahmal finished his career as the second-leading scorer in program history, first in assists and steals all-time, while also being named to five OUA All-Star teams and a CIS All-Canadian second-team (CIS is now known as U Sports).
“He’s one of the guys, if not the first guy, that Rana used to pave the way to build that dynasty that Ryerson has,” said former Rams guard Jean-Victor Mukama.
Mukama played with Jahmal in his first few two seasons at Ryerson and remembers how hard he used to train, while also taking Mukama under his wing.
“I treated it like a job. What you put in is what you get out,” said Jahmal.
Living by those words, Jahmal became one of the first Ryerson players to play basketball professionally, playing in multiple leagues across the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia and Slovakia.
Now, just five short years later, Jahmal’s Ryerson legacy lives on through his younger brother Jaren, who is entering his second year with the men’s basketball team.
At first, Jaren didn’t understand the magnitude of what his brother would accomplish in his time at Ryerson and basketball beyond.
“When I was younger, I never took in what he was doing until I got a lot older. That’s when it hit me that he was really good.”
But what Jaren does recall is the numerous times that Jahmal gave him no mercy when they’d be playing basketball downstairs with a mini-net in their basement.
“We were always very competitive,” said Jaren. “[When he would beat me in basketball], I would cry to my Mom.”
Losing to Jahmal in basketball was something Jaren had to get used to. Despite the difference in age, Jahmal did not care for letting his younger brother win.
“Jahmal would always say, ‘Why would I let him win?’” said Jaren. “‘He’s not going to get any better if I let him win.’ I learned how to deal with the competitive fire.”
Jaren, who proved he was a defensive hound when called upon in his freshman year, is primed to get major playing time this season on a new-look Ryerson team.
“It was hard to adjust at first, but after a while, your body gets used to it, your mind gets used to it,” said Jaren. “They called me the spark plug last season, so hopefully I can keep that up.”
Jahmal, who just recently signed with Team FOG Naestved in Denmark for the year, hopes that Jaren can flourish and earn the same opportunities that he once had as a member of the team.
Last year, Mukama ended his five-year career with the Rams. And the tables then turned on the OUA First-Team All-Star and U Sports Second-Team All-Canadian—he became a mentor to Jaren, who entered his rookie season the same year.
“Jahmal will be the first to tell you that his little brother can become a better player when it’s all said and done,” said Mukama.
“Jaren’s gifted. More athletically gifted than I was. Hopefully, he’ll have that opportunity,” said Jahmal.
Now with Jahmal passing down the torch to Jaren, the Jones’ basketball legacy at Ryerson continues.
And so do the competitive one-on-one battles between the two brothers that Jahmal used to dominate. It’s become more intense—to Jahmal’s liking.
“Obviously he still doesn’t win, but eventually when he starts winning, I might just have to quit altogether.”
With files from Libaan Osman