Josh Jones vividly recalls one day this fall when Creighton coach Greg McDermott gathered his players and talked about legacy.
What do you want to be remembered for, McDermott asked?
At the time, Jones' thoughts focused on the basketball side of the question. Did he want to be remembered as the guy from Omaha Central that scored a lot of points or played great defense? Or did he want to people to cherish the spirit and enthusiasm he brought to his team?
The night of Dec. 6 changed all that. That was when Jones' already surgically repaired heart acted up again, setting in motion the events that led to his announcement Wednesday that he had played his final game as a Bluejay.
“When I look back on it now, I know what I want my legacy to be,” Jones said. “It's about how a young kid from north Omaha who grew up with nothing but a dream and faced every adversity possible stayed focused and became successful.
“If I can do that, it would mean more to me than any basket I ever scored.”
In order for Jones to accomplish that, basketball can no longer be a part of his life. The nine-hour surgical procedure Jones underwent last week determined that what caused his heart rate to accelerate and for him to pass out before the Dec. 6 game against Nebraska might be more serious than an atrial flutter.
“What's coming out since that procedure is a little more concerning,” said Dr. Doug Ramos, Creighton's team physician.
Ramos said Jones' heart doctors are still determining what action must be taken. Next month Jones will undergo another radio frequency ablation — the procedure he underwent last week in which special wires were thread into his heart in an attempt to fix the problem.
Additional procedures could be needed. Jones could face another open heart procedure — he underwent his first in 2007 while a senior at Central. He might need to have a defibrillator implanted into his chest.
“It's fair to say with each bit of information Josh's heart team has gathered, the pendulum has moved toward a greater degree of seriousness and more to not playing,” Ramos said. “With each piece of information, it's moved toward the ending of a basketball career.”
In his heart, so to speak, Jones knew that his was over in the hours that followed last week's procedure. If nothing else, he knew time would be working against him.
A fifth-year senior, Jones figured the recovery time following next month's ablation would drag into February. Even under a best-case scenario, he likely wouldn't have been ready to play until maybe a handful of games remained.
Of course, there was a greater issue that raced through Jones' mind.
“My life is on the line,” he said.
Basketball became secondary even for someone that loves the game as much as Jones. He broke the news that he wouldn't be back to McDermott before Christmas.
“I don't know that even if Josh had been cleared to play that he would have been comfortable putting himself in a situation where that could potentially happen again,” McDermott said. “And I would have never blamed him. It's a scary situation, given everything he's been through.”
Jones played for McDermott for two-plus seasons. Dana Altman, who told Jones before his open-heart procedure in 2007 that Creighton would honor its scholarship commitment whether he ever played a minute or not, was his coach his first two years at the school.
Jones, a high-scoring star in high school, had to transition into a role-playing reserve at Creighton. There were ups and downs, but he became a crowd favorite with a swashbuckling style of play.
McDermott said Creighton will have to move on without Jones. Other players will have to step up.
“We've got guys that bring different things to the table,” McDermott said. “What we don't have is a fifth-year senior that has been in a lot of game situations and isn't afraid to go out there and play loose and free and not be afraid to make a mistake.
“That was a luxury that I really had with a guy like Josh, who really embraced the role that we asked him to play.”
Jones never met a shot that he was afraid to take. He made his share of big ones that the fans will remember but baskets are not what he'll cherish most from his collegiate experience.
Jones' favorite memory was repeated each time he ran through the tunnel and onto the court at the CenturyLink Center.
“You've just heard the pep talk from the coach,” he said. “You think back to how you gave your best effort in practice to prepare for the game and you'd see those 17,000-plus fans cheering. It was then I knew I was doing this for my family, the city of Omaha and the state of Nebraska.”
It's the support Jones has received from those fans, along with his coaches and teammates, that has helped him get through the past three weeks.
“They have been my crutch to lean upon, they've picked me up and motivated me,” he said. “I don't care how tough you are. When you go through something like this, it hurts.
“I've been frustrated. I've been depressed. I've shed a few tears, but I've come to realize that life is far more important than basketball. Hopefully, my adversity can be a testimony for someone else.”
A deeply religious young man, Jones admits initially after his heart episode earlier this month that he questioned God.
“I kept asking, 'Why did this have to happen to me now?'” he said. “But over the course of time, with all the people I have behind me, I've started to ask what. What is my calling, and what does He have in store for me?
“I can't play anymore, but I know there are things I can do to be successful.”
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>> Video: Josh Jones press conference on Dec. 12: