The father of National Team Development Program defenseman Seth Jones said Wednesday it was a “no-brainer” for his son to go to the WHL.
Former NBA forward Popeye Jones said there were a lot of items which helped his son decide if he wanted to spend next season with the Portland Winterhawks. Jones, 17, chose to play for the Winterhawks on Monday ending a tug-of-war for his services between the WHL’s premier franchise and the University of North Dakota.
“He put a lot of thought into it,” Popeye Jones said. “He did not want to choose a college early like a lot of kids do. We told him if you are not sure, to keep your options open. If a college is planning on you coming there, back it up. As parents, we felt it wouldn’t be a good thing to do and he didn’t think so either.”
Jones choosing Portland over North Dakota brought an end to one of the more publicized recruiting battles in recent hockey history. The 6-3, 205-pounder is projected to be the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick in next season’s NHL Draft.
Popeye Jones said what made Portland stand out was the reputation of coach Mike Johnston, who has turned the team into one of Major Junior’s elite over the last few seasons.
Another thing, Popeye Jones said, that helped was the fact his son could continue his education while playing in the WHL.
“There is a great academic program there,” he said. “It was really important to us becuase he’s not playing in college. We want him to get a degree and get into a strong academic program. He’s a smart kid and skipped a year of high school and that in itself lets everyone know that as a family, we put education ahead of sports.”
Popeye Jones added his son wanted to stay in the United States and it is another reason why Portland made sense.
Jones’ rights were owned by the Everett Silvertips (Wash.) and were later traded to Portland further solidifying the chances he’d be staying in America.
Staying in the United States, playing for one of Major Junior’s elite franchises, having a 72-game regular season schedule coupled with producing four first-round draft picks since 2010 is what helped put Portland over North Dakota, Popeye Jones said.
“I think will all the success Portland has had,” Popeye Jones said. “And the guys they’ve developed, it was a no-brainer for him to go there.”
Popeye Jones did add that his son did enjoy his visits to North Dakota.
Though there is one question that remains for the Jones’ family. Will it be enough to convince Caleb Jones to follow his brother?
Caleb Jones was taken in the third round by Portland in last week’s WHL Bantam Draft.
Like his brother, he is a defenseman and is currently playing midget hockey in the Dallas Stars’ youth program. Popeye Jones said Caleb was a different player than his older brother describing him as “bigger and more physical.”
“He’s still trying to decide,” Popeye Jones said about Caleb’s future. “He’s a very mature kid also as is Seth and that is what he’s thinking about right now. One thing that he’d love to do, is playing in Ann Arbor. That is his goal right now.”
Should Caleb Jones follow his brother to the NTDP, which fosters what is considered to be the nation’s best talent, it appears it may not be a problem for Popeye Jones.
Popeye Jones said he was impressed and grateful for everything the NTDP did for his son’s development on the ice and way from it during his two-year stay.
He said the NTDP was everything Jones wanted it to be and more given the demands the program has on its players from an academic viewpoint as well as the mindset it takes with development.
“For me and Seth may say something different, but any kid that has the chance to go to Ann Arbor and go to the NTDP, it’s a great program,” Popeye Jones said. “It is everything as a player that Seth wanted and everything as parents we wanted. The education aspect, even the grind of it. I don’t mind the grind of it and for a young kid, that is important. Seth’s billet mother was wonderful and he also lived with Quentin Shore (Denver) and they’ve been good friends for a long time. All of that has been great for him. The gains he has made while he was there were great. He was around 170 pounds and is leaving at 205 and the strength training and hockey training of Coach (Danton) Cole, they ride kids pretty hard there and they are very disciplined there as well.”