By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
The basketball fraternity, especially those in Grand Bahama, is mourning the passing of Oral 'Big O' Jones.
The former forward/centre was 51 years old. He died in New Providence around 3am Tuesday following a massive heart attack, according to reports.
Jones, a soft-spoken, gentle giant and native of Eight Mile Rock, was well liked by all who he came in contact with. Many would tell you that very seldom they heard Jones raise his voice with his teammates, whether they won or lost a basketball game.
He was a source of inspiration to his peers and even his opponents as he always possessed a big smile on his face.
One of those coaches who was in awe of Jones was Wayde Watson, formerly from Grand Bahama. "He was always a formidable force in the paint and to me, he knew how to control the game," Watson said. "He not only controlled the paint, but he could also start the fast break himself and he was a very intelligent basketball player, even though later in his years, his game started to diminish.
"But off the court, he was a real humble guy. He would give you his last. I know over the last five years, he was back and forth here in New Providence and Abaco where he was doing some construction work, so we talked a lot more, even though we didn't hang out that much."
A few years ago Watson said Jones approached him about playing in the New Providence Basketball Association and he welcomed his leadership to the Mail Boat Cybots men's basketball team when the league played in the CI Gibson Gymnasium. "He's an old Eight Mile Rock Bluejays, who played with the Above The Rim out of Eight Mile Rock," Watson recalled. "I think he played on the national team several times. But he was a good friend of mine. I'm going to miss him. It was sad when I got the news this morning.
"As a matter of fact, he called me about six weeks ago before the ladies' league ended and he asked me if I can train his daughter. I started to do some work with her. I know she's going to miss him a lot. I know his family is going to miss him a lot. The sporting world in Grand Bahama is going to miss him. He's been a basketball icon in Grand Bahama for a long time."
When Grand Bahamian Charlie 'Softly' Robins was elected as president of the Bahamas Basketball Federation, he began a campaign to determine the top 40 players on the island. The list was cultivated by Denzal 'Inch McGuire' Swain, who pegged Jones at No. 23. The list was headed by Dereck 'Bookie' Nesbitt and followed by Basil 'the Kid' Sands and Robins in the top three.
The Tribune extends condolences to the family of the late Jones. May his soul rest in peace.