In-Flight Entertainment…by John Weis
Up Close With Flight Guard Ernest Jones
Submitted January 18, 2011
Where are you from/where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in West Palm Beach, FL.
Talk about where you’ve played, from high school going forward – and a little bit about each stop along the way.
I played all four years at Palm Beach Lakes High School – one year of freshman ball, two years J.V. and one
I did not play in college as I tried to walk on my freshman year at Florida State University. I was literally one
name away from the final cut list. The assistant coach told me to stay in touch for the next year because he
really liked my play. I learned very quickly the politics that went into college basketball. I was able to stay
around the program as part of the scout team for the woman’s team. Basically, the scout team was the
women’s basketball team practicing against men to prepare for the next opponent on their schedule. I
created a lot of good relationships with some of the players who went on to the WNBA, plus got a lot of free
gear from the team!
My first semi-pro experience came with the Brevard Blue Ducks of the USBL in Melbourne, FL. I played two
seasons with the team and had the honor of being coached by Hall of Famer Nate “ Tiny” Archibald and
former NBA player Brian Rowsom.
I moved on to the Orlando Aces of the ABA as my second professional team. There I learned the most about
minor league basketball with all of its ups and downs! I originally made the team, but the team ended up
splitting into two squads. Unfortunately, the side I was on folded due to the owner having some personal
issues with an investor and his own legal problems. I then was forced to join the statistic crew for the side of
the Aces that branched off and continued with the season. Eventually, I would earn an opportunity to play
I eventually got a chance to play in one of the premier leagues at the time, the PBL, for the Buffalo
Stampede. It was only half a season, but it was the first time I got paid to play on a professional stage.
Of course, the last team I just played for was the Florida Flight.
You’ve been playing seven years in the minor leagues. What motivates you to keep doing it?
I simply love the game! I still feel I have a lot to offer a team. I know I can still play at a very high level, and
until that changes in me, I will continue to play at that high level.
You’ve said before that your goal is to play overseas. Why is that?
I want an opportunity to see the world and play the game I love. I believe that is the next level for me, and the next opportunity for me to show my game and what I have to offer.
Who are/were your biggest influences in life/in basketball?
My biggest influence in my life is my mother. She has taught me so much about life and how to treat others. My biggest influence in basketball was Sir Charles Barkley. He was a little big man! He is the reason I
acquired my post moves. He was the reason I loved to play down low, even though I didn’t really have the
size. He is the reason I play “big.”
How did you get acquainted with (Flight majority owner) Mark King?
Mark and I met during our time with the Orlando Aces. He had an office position when I originally met him at the Aces try-out. I then became his game-day helper, taking stats and whatever he needed me to do.
Eventually I got a chance to play and he became my coach. The rest is history.
What was last year like with the Flight?
My experience helped a lot. As a player, to be honest, I had already been a part of two first-year teams prior to the Flight, so I knew some of the things that I would be faced with. For example, it can be a challenge dealing with first year players and staff. But this was my first experience as a part owner, and in that way the season was very exciting. I saw the idea of the team go from paper into actual existence. I have never been a part of something like the Flight. The thing I am the most proud of with the Flight is the strong belief in helping the community.
How do you feel about changing leagues?
I don’t mind at all. In light of everything that happened last year it was the right decision. Once we decided to find another league the CBL was the logical choice. It was the right choice not only for us but for our fans who deserve the best we can give them.
Who’s your favorite NBA player, and why?
Well, I talked about this earlier a little, but it is definitely Sir Charles Barkley! His toughness as an undersized power forward, his ability to rebound night in and night out, and his scoring ability in the post are amazing. That may sound weird coming from me, a point guard, but he is the reason I love to be down in the paint. I developed post moves from watching Charles.
Do you have a nickname? You’ve been called “EJ,” but do you have anything else that is more “official?”
My nickname is “Air Ezel.” Let me explain. In high school, a favorite movie among my group of friends was Friday. We all named each other after some of the characters from that movie. I was bit of a class clown in high school, so the character in the movie I was named after was Ezel, who was played by the comedian AJ Johnson. The “air” came later because of my dunking ability; hence the name “Air Ezel.”
Tell me about your family. How have they supported you?
My mother and father live back in West Palm Beach, Fl. They both fully support me in whatever I do,
especially basketball. I have a younger brother who is in the Navy. He still thinks he can beat me in a game
In addition to playing for the Flight, you also have a 9-to-5 job. Tell us about that.
I work full-time for the State of Florida in the Department of Children and Families (DCF) as a Child Protective Investigator. I investigate child abuse. As you can imagine, my job is stressful in many ways, but it’s also rewarding to me at the end of the day. I love children, and that is why anytime I have a chance to give back, I do.
What are you looking to improve upon to take your game to the next level?
I want to improve upon becoming a big-time offensive threat. I have always been a great defensive player and have worked hard on that part of my game. I would love to progress into being “that guy” you have to worry about every time he is in the game on both ends of the floor.
In your opinion, what does the Flight need to do to win a CBL championship?
We need a group of guys that are willing to place the team above everything else. It starts with a good core of guys. Talent isn’t enough these days, though. Any team can have talent, but if guys aren’t willing to trust each other it gets ugly out there!
Ernest, thanks very much for your time.