NORFOLK, VA (WTKR)- Robert Jones has built Norfolk State into the top men's basketball team in the MEAC, claiming back-to-back conference titles and heading to two straight NCAA Tournaments. Now he'll look to work his magic on a different basketball stage.
Jones is the head coach of HBCUnited, a team made up of primarily HBCU alumni that will compete in The Basketball Tournament, a 64-team field battling for $1 million. Jones and the squad held their final practices on Thursday before departing for their regional in New York City on Friday afternoon.
"I've really been doing double duty," Jones said. "I call NSU my full-time job and I'm at my part time job right now so it's been a fun-filled summer."
It's a learning experience for everybody and that includes the head coach. Jones is taking mental notes while coaching HBCUnited, hanging onto things that could help his team at Norfolk State.
"Just like players need practice, the more practice coaches can get, the better they'll be, too," the head Spartan pointed out. "I think I'll be even a better coach next season with this practice right now."
TBT teams have to win six games to claim the $1 million prize and it all starts with the regional round. That will take Jones back to his hometown of New York City and historic Rucker Park. HBCUnited will open play against Skip to my Lou on Saturday night.
"I haven't coached a basketball game in New York City in a long time," Jones noted. "Just to go back and be able to coach these guys and hopefully we can live out some of their dreams of winning the tournament, and then coaching in Rucker Park, it's going to be great."
Rucker Park has been the home of some basketball legends and has seen some big games. Now Jones and his team will look to put their own historic fingerprint on the venue.
"We're looking to make some history at Rucker Park, too," he said. "Hopefully we can go and win that regional and then move on. Last year the HBCU team did not fare that well in the TBT tournament and we're trying to change that this year."
HBCUnited and Skip to my Lou will tip off at approximately 8:00 PM on Saturday night in the first round of The Basketball Tournament.