It remains to be seen what Jesse Jones is like as a professional basketball player, but make no mistake about it — the latest addition to the roster of the St. John’s Edge is a bona fide star.
On Tuesday, the National Basketball League of Canada team announced it had signed Jones, a six-foot, 185-pound guard from Irvington, N.J., who had played two seasons at the University of Bridgeport, including 2014-15, when he helped the team reach the NCAA tournament. However, it’s what the 26-year-old has done away from the court that has seen him attract a huge social media spotlight.
Jones has more than 1.7 million — yes, that’s million — followers on Instagram, where he posts his commentaries on video clips, mainly from basketball, but from other sports as well.
And it’s created an online movement that goes by one word — filayyyy.
Filayyyy (you really need to envision a few exclamation marks behind the four “ys”, and maybe some musical notes, as well) is Jones’s signature saying, derived from the “filet” as in filet mignon. It’s probably no coincidence that his father, also Jesse, is a well-known New Jersey chef.
Filayyyy has become a brand, literally. It was trademarked two years ago and is the only word you need to find Jones’ accounts on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and the like.
His humorous, yet astute, voice-overs, and the fact his words are often delivered through his singing, have brought him that huge following and the attention of some of basketball’s biggest stars, including LeBron James.
He has been widely profiled on online sites, including that of the BET network; The Fader, which described him as the “internet’s favorite sports commentator;” and Bleacher Report, which anointed him “Preacher of the Basketball Internet.”
However, Edge head coach Steve Marcus said Jones can be dynamic on the court, as well.
“Electric is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Jesse,” said Marcus in a team release.
“He will bring an unmatched energy and work ethic every day to our organization and is a guy that immediately adds toughness to our team.”
Jones averaged 12.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in his senior year at Bridgeport, while shooting 43.8 per cent from the field overall and 41.6 per cent on three-pointers.
Jones attended the NBA G-League’s prospects invitational in 2018 and did enough to be highlighted on the league’s website as one of the top performers at the gathering, noting he used “dribble moves and head fakes to find open space in the lane and finish at the rack.”
(It’s probably worth noting here the other title on his Twitter account is Mr.SkipThruDatLane”)
However, Jones never played in the G-League; his contract with the Edge is his first real one as a pro.
“I came a long way from where I started, I stayed humble, stayed focused and stayed hungry,” said Jones, who played two years at a New Jersey junior college before going to Bridgeport. “ I knew God had a plan for me and my path was different, but the opportunity is here now.”
His signing gives St. John’s six contracted players, or exactly half of an NBL Canada active roster.
The team had earlier announced the returns of Canadians Junior Cadougan and Murphy Burnatowski from last year’s roster, and the additions of three other newcomers, Americans Cane Broome and Montay Brandon, and Cassidy Ryan, who is from Ontario.
The Edge open their 2019-20 regular season on Dec. 27 in Moncton against the defending champion Magic, who swept St. John’s in last year’s league final.
The Edge’s first home game is Jan.7, when they take on the K-W Titan at Mile One Centre.