DENTON, Texas – In the fall of 2011, Jordan Williams and Chris Jones found out the hard way just how tough the transition from high school to college can be. Like thousands of freshmen across the nation, the Dallas-area hoops standouts underestimated the commitment that college level courses require, and failed to keep up with their studies.
Unlike most students, Jones and Williams saw their saga played out in the newspaper headlines. The fallout was devastating to the two players, their families, the program and the entire Mean Green community. They would be ineligible for the spring semester of college basketball – a first in a generation for a program that prides itself in academic excellence.
“It was very embarrassing,” said Williams. “I really felt like I let a lot of people down; my mom, my family, teammates and coaches. When it happed, I just cried.”
The punishment wasn’t just academic probation for Williams and Jones, who admit to not taking advantage of the array of tutoring and mentoring services provided by the Mean Green Student-Athlete Services Center . They would be unable to practice or attend any team functions. It was as if they were not even a part of their own squad, forced to watch their teammates compete from the stands.
That’s exactly where Jones and Williams were as the 2012 Sun Belt Tournament finals game against Western Kentucky slipped through the fingers of the Mean Green – in the stands holding back tears of frustration. To this day they feel partly responsible for North Texas losing that game and a possible trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“Watching that game from the stand was one of the toughest things that I ever had to do,” Jones said. “Jordan and I could have been the difference in that game, but we didn’t take care of our studies and it cost everyone. It was one of the toughest lessons of my life, and it’s one I’ll never forget.”
Heartbreaking experiences can often turn into motivation for the future, and that’s exactly what Williams and Jones say today about their academic mishaps of the past. The two have not only taken control of their studies, but are mentors for the rest of the student-athletes on campus about the importance of hitting the books.
While the folks at Oxford probably won’t be hitting up Jones and Williams any time soon about applying for a Rhodes Scholarship, the duo has turned their academic lives around and are on track to graduate.
“You hate to say that what happened to them was for the best, but it sure woke them up,” said assistant director of student-athlete academic services, Rachel McMullen, who oversees the scholastic progress of the NT basketball team. “Chris and Jordan are far from perfect, but since their freshman year they work so much harder and they are much more responsible. They do whatever they have to do to get their work done.”