The verdict is in: Nick Jones will play basketball in his senior season for the Gauchos.
The NCAA slapped the guard with an eight-game suspension on Wednesday for playing eight games in an unauthorized summer league team in Mexico several months ago. Jones will miss the first eight games of the regular season, which commences for Santa Barbara against the University of Hawaii in Honolulu on Nov. 21.
When the allegations surfaced, the UCSB coaching staff decided to sit Jones for the Gauchos’ first exhibition game last week while the NCAA investigated the case. Jones will be scratched from the lineups of all preconference regular season games, and is scheduled to make a return in the Big West opener against Long Beach State at the Pyramid on Jan. 3.
It was initially feared that the infractions would cost Jones the entire season, so when word broke of the partial suspension yesterday, the coaching staff decided to play him in the Gauchos’ final exhibition contest against Ratiopharm Ulm.
“I’m really glad that Nick got a chance to play in this game,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said.
Sophomore guard Joe See started at the two-guard spot, but Jones jumped into the game at the 14:11 mark and made an immediate impact. Jones was a perfect 3-3 in the period, including two monster three-pointers. He finished the game, totaling a game-high 18 points in 29 minutes.
“We’re going to have tough rhythm with the team, but by the time we get to January, [Jones will be back from suspension],” Williams said. “I’m not happy to lose him for eight games, but I’m happy that he’ll be back.”
Jones went to Mexico this summer to try out for the Mexican National Team. Jones’ mother Laura is a citizen of Mexico, making Nick eligible for the squad. Jones tried out alongside other qualified basketball players, such as Irvine senior center Adam Parada. Yet Jones didn’t make the squad and was subsequently placed on a team that competed during the summer. While Jones did not receive any monetary or material compensation for his basketball services, certain individuals on the team were paid, which made the team a semi-professional basketball team.
The student-athlete handbook in the NCAA’s Clearinghouse states that any student-athlete that “plays on a professional team or participates on an amateur sports team and receives any salary” runs the risk of losing their eligibility.
UCSB had no knowledge of Jones’ involvement in any team beyond the tryout at the Mexican National Team trials.