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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jack Jones Shootout brings kids to the big show

Hoop Dreams
Jack Jones Shootout brings kids to the big show

The name “John Paul Jones” is etched on the newsroom office door of The Daily News building in Downtown Memphis and also on the main entrance of a 16,000-seat arena at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

But for the man himself, known by friends as “Jack,” the true measure of his name – and of his legacy – is more aptly found in the eponymous basketball showcase he launched three years ago, the Jack Jones Shootout.

It’s through this event that Jones, who turns 90 on April 4, hopes to leave an indelible imprint on the hearts and minds of Memphis-area youths.

The third annual Shootout is set for April 10 at FedExForum with basketball games for kids ages 8-18 in the afternoon followed by the Memphis Grizzlies’ season finale against the Philadelphia 76ers at 7 p.m.

The basketball extravaganza gives local kids a chance to learn from professional coaches in a camp and also play on the same floor as the world’s best players. This year’s event has added a senior game featuring some of the nation’s top high school recruits.

It’s free to anyone who has a ticket for that night’s Grizzlies game, and donations made to the Shootout benefit youth athletic programs and help more kids attend the entire day’s festivities.

The Shootout was borne of Jones’ passion for basketball, which he said grew rapidly during the early 1970s while watching then-Memphis State University make a rousing run to the NCAA championship game.

Leading the Tigers that year was a hoops legend whose impression on Jones lives to this day.

“I go back to the days of Larry Finch. That’s when I started really getting interested,” Jones said. “Playing as well as he did and as often as he did, Larry Finch is my all-time favorite.”

Basketball soul
Jones’ admiration for Finch – last year’s Shootout proceeds helped buy Finch, who is in poor health, a new hospital bed and wheelchair – mirrors his love for basketball.

So Jones was elated when the Grizzlies moved to town in 2001 and has been a courtside season-ticket holder since the team’s opening game. He’s such a dedicated fan that his wife, Sandra, said Jack won’t let them leave games even if the Grizzlies are losing badly because empty seats look bad on television.

But Jones, a noted philanthropist and former president/publisher of The Daily News, doesn’t reserve his love of the game to the Grizzlies. He is equally passionate about the University of Memphis Tigers and his law school alma mater Virginia, where he travels most seasons to see a game or two.

Jones’ fervor now includes the Shootout, which has grown in its first three years. This year’s debut senior showcase, for example, includes homegrown talent and U of M recruits Tarik Black and Chris Crawford.

Jack Jones Shootout
April 10, FedExForum
For tickets and to donate, visit

Ernie Kuyper, general manager of M33M Basketball – a youth basketball program co-founded by Kuyper and his cousin, former Grizzlies player Mike Miller – said Jones is providing a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for kids in the city of Memphis and the surrounding area.”

“It’s their dream,” said Kuyper, whose M33M players compete in the senior game. “When you’re a kid sitting in the stands watching the Memphis Grizzlies play, you dream of playing on that court one day. Jack, as many games as he’s been to, is providing that dream for these youth of Memphis and the surrounding area.”

Notable life
Making an impact on the lives of Memphians is something Jones has done for decades.

Jones specialized in transportation law, helping truck lines deal with moving goods across the country.

His family started The Daily News in 1886, and Jones took the reins of the paper in 1960, serving as publisher until 1994 when he sold his interest in the company to stepson Peter Schutt, who now is the fourth-generation family member to own the business.

During his 34-year tenure at The Daily News, Jones served as president of the Tennessee Press Association and national chairman of the American Court and Commercial Newspapers group.

As someone accustomed to leadership roles, Jones said he holds the utmost respect for the coaches of his favorite teams, such as the Grizzlies’ Lionel Hollins or the Tigers’ Josh Pastner.

Perhaps it’s because he sees a parallel of teamwork in the workplace and on the basketball floor.

“I’ve heard Jack say many times that … ‘Nothing brings people together like the Grizzlies and the Tigers,’” Sandra Jones said. “It’s a great relationship.”

On the verge of turning 90, Jones knows that the relationship, along with his name, will carry on for a long, long time.

It will carry on at the Virginia arena his son, Paul Tudor Jones II, built and named after him (known affectionately as “The Jack”).

And it will carry on through the Jack Jones Shootout.

“I look forward to going to games in the years to come,” Jones said, pausing, “since I’m going to live to be 105 years old.”

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