Ohlone College sophomore Reggie Jones is quick to agree: He's been through a lot. But the standout 6-foot-9 center is still standing, and thriving in the Renegades basketball "family."
Ohlone (22-4) on Monday earned the No. 1 seed in the Northern California Regional playoffs and will host either West Valley or Shasta at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Renegades couldn't have done it without Jones, who was named MVP of the Coast Conference North Division.
Indeed, he has come a long way.
When Jones grew up in Paterson, N.J., a city known for its mean streets, his real family was jolted by a barrage of tragedy.
His mother, Yvette, died of a heart attack when he was 5 years old.
His father, Carson, was killed in a car accident in Virginia two years later.
Then Reggie's aunt, Samantha Alexander, who had become his primary custodian, died of a heart attack one week before he graduated from the eighth grade.
His grandmother, Alessar Jones, stepped in, but she succumbed to lung cancer when Reggie was a sophomore at Eastside High in Paterson.
Reggie and his parents had once shared a home with his aunt and grandmother ... and one by one his family was stripped away.
Ohlone coach John Peterson marvels at Jones' positive approach, all things considered.
"He's so unbelievable," Peterson said last week. "He's not what you would expect given the circumstances. He's got such a sweet disposition about him, such a great
In leading Ohlone to the conference championship, the 23-year-old Jones — who had not played since the 2005-06 season — averaged 17.4 points and 5.1 rebounds a game, shooting 65 percent from the floor. He has orally committed to Division II Cal State Stanislaus.
"I'm feeling good. I'm feeling wonderful, actually," Jones said. "I love this program. I love everything about it. ... The way this program is set up, you can't go bad unless you want to go bad."
Peterson said Jones' teammates are aware of the ordeal he's been through.
"They know the deal," Peterson said. "I don't know if Reggie has any tears left. I think he's beyond that."
Peterson said Jones missed 142 days of school his sophomore year at Eastside High in Paterson while caring for his grandmother as she underwent two years of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"I was putting her on a stretcher and bringing her into the house," Jones said last week. "You have to stay strong, for yourself and others, and by that time I had already had so much go against me, I almost learned how to have a tough skin and just put it behind your back and keep it moving."
Jones said he tried "as best as I could" to steer clear of the pitfalls of street life while attending Eastside High — a school made famous by the 1989 film "Lean on Me," starring Morgan Freeman.
Jones' friends wanted him to play basketball at Eastside, but he was content to shoot hoops for fun. Consequently, his weight ballooned to around 320 pounds, well over his current 227.
He transferred as a senior to Bayley-Ellard High, a private Catholic school in Madison, N.J., where he played his only year of high school basketball and had "the best time of my life" under coach Kevin Moore, who became his father figure and mentor.
After Jones graduated high school, Moore coached Jones again at County College of Morris in Randolph, N.J., in 2005-06. Jones next transferred to Palm Beach Community College in Lake Worth, Fla., and Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel, Ill. He didn't play basketball at either school, saying he was either homesick or didn't like the coach.
Peterson said Jones, who enrolled at Ohlone last summer, basically followed his friend Frank Monge to the East Bay. Monge, a former University of Rhode Island redshirt who also attended County College of Morris, played from 2007-2009 at Ohlone before transferring to Cal State Stanislaus.
The Renegades' 14-man roster lists five players from Pennsylvania, two from New Jersey and one from Israel. Coming from such diverse backgrounds, players share a common bond.
"We do everything together," Jones said. "We go out to eat, we go on little trips, we go to the movies, we do a lot of team functions that bring us closer. We like to kid around a lot, so that helps."
Sounds just like a family.