Monmouth senior Deon Jones stunned everyone Sunday afternoon when he returned to the Hawks’ starting lineup after missing five games with a broken hand. But the return may not have happened without another injury at the game’s highest level.
In the Fall of 2014, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook missed four weeks with a broken hand. Westbrook was able to start playing again because trainers developed a special glove for the all-star.
“Early last week we were trying a few things,” Jones said of the return process. “Mike Iuliucci, our equipment manager, he found a football glove. We talked to the Thunder trainer because Russell Westbrook broke his hand last year and he played with it. They told us exactly what they did, and that’s what we tried to do with this glove right here. It’s been working great.”
It was Athletic Trainer Vanessa Sweeney, who Jones called “the best trainer in the country,” who made the rounds trying to find a way to stabilize Jones’ hand for game action.
“Vanessa called all across the country to find a hand pad that he would be able to play with,” Monmouth coach King Rice said following Sunday’s semifinal win over
Jones was hardly limited in his return despite the time off and uncertainty over the glove’s stability. The senior shot 4-for-8, finishing with nine points, seven rebounds, and added three assists for good measure. The confidence of having a game under his belt will only benefit Jones as Monmouth gets set to face Iona for the MAAC championship Monday night.
When I first started out I played a little cautious, just because I broke my hand,” Jones told reporters Monday afternoon. “I was struggling a little bit on free throws, but today it feels great. [It gives me] so much more confidence. It got hit a couple of times, I fell on it and realized it didn’t hurt, so now it’s got me even more confident.”
Rice is happy to have Jones back in the lineup. More than the physical and statistical benefits Jones brings to the team, Rice takes appreciation in the knowledge that his senior gets to finish his Monmouth career on the court rather than sitting on the sidelines.
“I am so happy for Deon Jones and his family that he’s able to play again,” Rice said Sunday night. “Of course it makes our team better, but for him and what he’s meant to Monmouth University, to not be out there for the end of his senior year was hard to take.”
Jones was recently named to the All-MAAC Third Team for the second consecutive year. He is the team’s third leading scorer, averaging 10.3 ppg.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.