There are several different ways athletes tend to approach the beginning of a professional career. On one hand there are the highly touted players that talk about living up to the hype and meeting whatever expectations may be placed upon them. On the other one can find those who are looking forward to the many perks that come with playing at the highest level, such as large crowds, equipment deals and the all-powerful contract.
Minnesota Swarm draftee Scott Jones is an example of someone who has taken a more humble approach to becoming a pro; in fact he is hesitant to even think ahead to opening night on Dec. 28: “I’m going into training camp with the attitude that I want to make the team first and I’ll move forward from there.”
When the Swarm selected Jones – a 24-year-old forward out of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County – with the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft, they not only received a top-end talent but also someone who is able to truly appreciate the journey that lacrosse has led him on, always keen to learn something new at each stop along the way. Propelling Jones down this road that has reached St. Paul is a burning passion for the game that has its roots close to home for the Port Coquitlam, British Columbia native.
Swarm coach Joe Sullivan is particularly glad to see Jones come to town, claiming at the time of the draft that he was one of the most highly recommended players available. “Scott is a big, athletic scorer who makes our right side very formidable,” Sullivan said. “He is an unselfish player who is great on and off of the floor.”
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Jones is fresh off of a standout career at UMBC, where the two-year captain has led the Retrievers in scoring each of the last three seasons, including back-to-back campaigns scoring over 35 goals in 2012 and 2013. The 30th player in UMBC history to reach the 100-point plateau, he currently sits 20th all-time in scoring with 117 points. Aside from his point totals, Jones also was recognized as First-Team All-America East Conference in 2012.
Even with all of his success at UMBC, Jones refused to take his college experience for granted, especially considering most prospective Canadian players opt to stick to the junior route rather than to join the American college ranks. Jones explains that his time at UMBC taught him valuable lessons regarding discipline, hard work and time management that he might not have learned if he stayed North of the border. “Going through the college ranks and playing the top Division I schools has really helped me develop into a better player.”
The decision to leave home and become a Retriever was made slightly easier due to the fact that the road from Port Coquitlam to Baltimore was already in place. Jones’ brother Jeff Ratcliffe had his own prolific lacrosse career at UMBC, graduating in 2000 before enjoying an outstanding seven-year NLL career with the Philadelphia Wings and the New York Titans, notching 240 goals and 405 points over 125 total games along side winning a title his rookie season in 2001 with the Wings.
After taking some time after high school to consider where his lacrosse career could take him, Jones remembers the picture getting much clearer after hearing from the UMBC coaching staff: “I’ve always looked up to my brother, so when I got the offer to go to UMBC I jumped all over it.”
Growing up in a devout lacrosse family helped instill Jones with a deep love of the game that has not faded in the slightest, but being the little brother of a former professional superstar has one additional benefit: incentive. “I am definitely hoping to follow in his footsteps in the NLL,” Jones says.
Jones is definitely on the right track to making a name for himself with the Swarm, as he is no stranger to playing against the world’s top competition. The forward has already spent three summers playing with the Sr. A Burnaby Lakers in the WLA, a league that is chock full of professional players. He is also thriving there, as he finished second on his team and sixth in the league with 65 points (27g, 38a) in 16 games in 2013.
Once again Jones keeps this success in perspective, focusing instead on the importance of his time in Burnaby on getting him ready to make the transition to the NLL. “I think I am in a better standing going into camp after playing three years of WLA and four years of NCAA ball,” Jones says.
Despite having the few extra years of preparation at his disposal, Jones acknowledges that this track record of high-level play is the norm, not the exception. “Experience kind of goes out the door once training camp starts,” he explains. “Most new guys are coming in having experience playing high level lacrosse, regardless of their age.”
Similarly, when asked if being the oldest rookie on the roster may lead him to take a leadership role, he was quick to shine the spotlight onto his teammates. “From what I’ve heard we have a strong group with a lot of leaders so I think we should be just fine,” Jones says.
Such selflessness epitomizes Jones’ robust team-first attitude, yet Sullivan doesn’t want anyone to forget about his elite skill set that made him worthy of a first-round selection.
“We need Scott to be an impact player for us from the get-go,” Sullivan says. “He has the ability and size to do that, and as long as he works as hard as he can, I believe he’s going to be a guy that sets the tone offensively and takes pressure off other players.”
Jones is especially excited for the opportunity to use his massive size to add depth to an extremely talented Swarm offense, including 2013 leading scorer F Callum Crawford, T Jordan MacIntosh, T Kiel Matisz and fellow rookie F Logan Schuss. According to Jones he’ll be able to do his best work away from the ball, using his size and solid vision to put his teammates in positions to score.
Regardless of whatever role is thrust upon him, Jones has the right attitude to excel in a Swarm uniform, and is poised to win the approval of fans at The Hive with his dedication and hard work that he picked up from his family and throughout his career. “I have a whatever-it-takes, team-first attitude, and I look forward to use it to help the team advance as far as we can and hopefully vie for the Champion's Cup.”