Lazeric Jones is a 28 year old 182cm point guard from Chicago, Illinois that is playing his seventh professional season and first with AS Monaco Basket (France-ProA). He has played in various countries in Europe like Israel, Greece, Hungary and Turkey. He has won three professional titles with two in Hungary and one in Turkey. He started his basketball career at Simeon Career Academy where he helped the school win the state title in 2007 while playing with Derrick Rose. He then played two years at John A. Logan College before finishing at UCLA. He spoke to germanhoops.com after the 75-65 Eurocup win in Ulm.
Lazeric thanks for talking to germanhoops.com Was this your first time in Germany? What do you know in general about the country Germany and it´s basketball?
This was my first time in Germany. Ulm is a nice city. I have really enjoyed my stay here. I only heard good things about Germany.
Congrats on the convincing 75-65 win keeping a very offensive team like Ulm under 70 points. The way you have been defending in the early going, does this team have the potential to be a very good defensive team?
I think so. Coach is big on defense. As long as we give the effort I feel like we will always do well against any team we play. Sky is the limit for us this season on the defensive end.
You have played in many countries in Europe in Israel, Greece, Hungary, Turkey and now France. How cool has it been playing for AS Monaco Basket (France-ProA) and living in Monaco?
It has definitely been different. Monaco is such a beautiful place. The organization has been great and given me everything I need to be comfortable. The weather is great and I love the view.
What has been the coolest experience that you have had so far living in Monaco? There are many celebrities walking around. Have you met Prince Albert?
I haven´t met Prince Albert yet. To be honest the coolest has been the scenery. You see nice cars and yachts, but I have never been a guy that needs to have a lot to get excited.
You have always played a central role as a professional where ever you have played, but this season it seems like your playing second fiddle to guards Derrick Needham and Gerald Robinson. How tough has the early going been for you?
It´s been tough. I have never been a player that cares about stats. For me the most important thing is winning and producing on the court on the offensive and defensive end. I´m slowly getting more comfortable and confident with my current situation.
The club has made a huge rise since being in the fourth league in 2012. Since then it finished in first two years ago in the Pro A and was a 2018 BCL finalist. This season it brought in six players. What is the biggest strength of the team and does it feel pressure having to repeat the BCL success of last season?
There is always pressure, because I always expect to win. But I don´t feel pressure, because I always expect to win. It is tough not being able to get the minutes I want, because I would like to always be out on the court and be fighting for the win. We as a team want to continue to push forward and continue the Monaco success.
Let´s talk about your game. You’re a guard that has always been a consistent scorer where ever you played. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description.
That´s a good question that I have never really thought about. I have always looked up to the best players. I try to take a little from guys like Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Derrick Rose. I love their games. I have always enjoyed how they run their teams and conduct themselves on the court. If I had to pick a guy that I play similar to then I would say Raymond Felton. He has always been a really good shooter, passer and defender.
Your 28 years old now. Would you say that you are in your prime now and on what part of your game are you most working on to improve now?
Yes I would say that I am in my prime now. I have slowed more down over the years and feel overall more comfortable with the experience I have gained. I continue to keep working on my long range jumper and continuing to become more consistent. The better teams that I play for the better kind of shooter I have to be. I also feel I continue to read the floor better. I hear that I´m not a passer, but I feel I have read the floor better in the last years. Looking at a lot of film has helped me read the floor better.
You have been a very good three point shooter eclipsing the 40% mark in Israel, Greece, Hungary and Turkey. As a good shooter how do your goals continue as you get older?
I didn´t take as many three´s as a rookie as I was more of a driver. Over time I have learned to take smarter shots and take shots where I feel I have good enough room to make it. My confidence also has continued to grow because I have always put in the work over my career to become a better shooter.
You’re a guy that can fill up the stat sheet with ease, but what do you feel is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away on the court?
Reading the floor, but even more just winning. It doesn´t matter where I have played, but either we overachieved as a team or the team did something good that it had previously never done before in it´s history. This shows that I have done a good job as a floor general because the teams have been winning. I always want to be known as a winner. And that started early in my career in high school through college all the way to now.
You played parts of the last three seasons in Turkey. What did you learn to appreciate the most about the game and culture that made you stay the longest in one country in your career?
The culture is very special in Turkey. They really appreciate guys who work hard and give their all to win. I also appreciate how I still get messages from fans to this day asking me how I´m doing and wishing me the best. They saw the hunger that I always had on the floor. I loved the fans in Turkey. I also loved the coaches. They ride or died with the team.
You played the last two seasons for Sakarya Buyuksehir Basketbol (Turkey-TBL) and was teammates with Americans Charles Jackson and Nathan Boothe who are both playing their first seasons in Germany. What are some special details about these guys that Germans won´t know?
I love those two guys. They both play so hard. Booth would run through a wall for you if you asked him too. He is an incredible shooter. Both guys work so hard. The fans in Germany will love them. Nate is a bull and really takes care of himself off the court with his nutrition and gym work. He is as strong as they come. I would always put my money on him in a wrestling match. What many don´t even know about Charles is that he wasn´t even a big man when he was younger. He was a guard and then suddenly went on a growth spurt. He is so quick off the bounce now as a big man that he is like a guard. His game will continue to rise. I think that both will have long careers.
In the 2015-2016 season you began with the Memphis Grizzlies and played with the Iowa Energy (D-League) playing 21 games averaging 16.1ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.8apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 47.5%, 3PT: 37.8%, FT: 80.3%, in Jan.’16 joined Pinar Karsiyaka SK Izmir (Turkey-BSL). You had a short stint in the NBA/D-League. Was there a prime example where you saw that the NBA is first a business before anything else?
The NBA is a business first. The Grizzlies liked me and thought I played well. They really appreciated my game. I think that if I had been more patient then and waited it out more in the D-League that I might have been called up. The thing about the NBA is no matter how good you play there are always factors that you can´t get past. It´s all about the favors and agents. At the end of the day the NBA conduct´s it´s business in a certain way. I have only good things to say about the Grizzlies organization and how they treated me. I left early that season and came to Europe for the reason of supporting my family better. They just don´t pay as much as overseas. I had to provide for my family.
There are so many talented guards in the G-League. What do you feel would you had to have done to get a NBA deal?
It´s all about the right situation. The problem is that there are so few NBA spots. I felt that when I was there I showed I can score, shoot and run a team. Like I said if I had been more patient, it might have happened. The problem is that so many guys now in the G-League think it´s all about scoring, but it really isn´t. Reaching the NBA Isn´t always about scoring, but being efficient and fitting into a puzzle
After a very strong season in Greece you then played a very strong season with Szolnoki Olajbanyasz (Hungary-A Division) playing 8 Eurocup games averaging 13.0ppg, 2.0rpg, 4.1apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.3%, 3PT: 53.8%, FT: 75.0%; and played 23 Adriatic League games: Score-5(13.3ppg), 2.9rpg, 3.9apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 46.2%, 3PT-2(51.9%), FT: 86.9%. Did this not seem like a step back after such a great season in Greece?
I think that at the time it was a good move and still do today. They paid me good money. It was a good organization and good experience for me. I had played NBA Summer League that summer with the Chicago Bulls and had waited it out. I didn´t get as many offers. I was young and that offer is what was put in front of me. I was going with the guidance of my agent and didn´t know what would happen. It was a good situation for me. The organization took good care of me, paid me on time and the fans were amazing. My agent made the right move.
In the 2014-2015 season you played with Szolnoki Olajbanyasz (Hungary-A Division) winning the league and cup title playing 11 games averaging 11.4ppg, 3.6rpg, 4.4apg, 1.7spg, FGP: 44.0%, 3PT: 27.3%, FT: 82.1%; and played 8 Eurocup games averaging 13.0ppg, 2.0rpg, 4.1apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 46.3%, 3PT: 53.8%, FT: 75.0%; and played 23 Adriatic League games: Score-5(13.3ppg), 2.9rpg, 3.9apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 46.2%, 3PT-2(51.9%), FT: 86.9%. What made this team so special?
We had a good mix of veterans and young guys that helped make success. Our coach Dragan Aleksic had a very good understanding what it took to win. I was one of the younger guys on the team together with David Voyvoda who is a Hungarian national player today. The veterans really helped us learn the game. We gave the energy and the older guys the experience and we fed off each other.
I remember watching Teddy Gipson in Germany back in the day. He was 10 years older than you. He obviously had a lot of experience, but was the 10 year gap noticeable and what do you remember most about his character?
Gipsen was a real professional and was a really good player. I learned a lot from him. I learned to become more patient on the court. He wasn´t out of control and helped me slow down and helped me read the game a lot better. He also helped me become more comfortable in Europe off the court. He was 10 years older than me and still super athletic for his age.
In your second professional season you played with KAO Dramas (Greece-A1) playing 28 games averaging 13.6ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.6apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 45.7%, 3PT: 45.5%, FT: 75.9%. You played so many games in your career, but is the 87-85 loss to Panathinaikos where you scored 23 points a game you will always remember?
Of course I remember that game. We were a small team. We had the best season in their history. We had a really good group of guys that season. Coach helped me how to shoot better and attack in certain situations. I told myself that playing against a team like this would be a test against the best in Europe. I went out and was hungry and tested my mentality and physicality to see if I could be at their level. I remember that game and will always remember that we showed that game that we could play against anybody. I would love to get some film of that game and see my younger self. I think back to that game a lot.
As a rookie you played with Maccabi Rishon Le-Zion (Israel-Winner League) playing 26 games averaging 10.4ppg, 2.4rpg, 2.9apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 39.6%, 3PT: 44.6%, FT: 70.4%. What was your wake up call to being a rookie in Europe where you knew that you were very far away from home?
Breaking the language barrier was the toughest thing. I was young and didn´t understand the language. I had problems ordering food. My crazy wake up call was when the club changed coaches in mid-season. The fans were upset of the firing. I remember being at practice and fans were banging at the door trying to get in. I was a little nervous, because I had never seen that before. I realized that they took their basketball very serious in Israel. I also realized that there were die hard fans and they really appreciated what happened on the court.
Shawn Dawson was a kid when you were a rookie in Israel. He almost made the NBA some years ago. What memories do you have of his athleticism?
My teammate Willie Warren and I were always talking with Shawn. We knew that he would become really good. He was around 17 years old that season. He was super athletic and could already shoot the ball well. Most important was that he played very hard. He was long and athletic and I knew he could get to the NBA. In Europe coaches will often force greatness and at times he was down. Willie and I always kept him uplifted.
You played at Simeon Career Academy winning the state title and playing behind future NBA player Derrick Rose. Instead of going to an NCAA school you played at John A. Logan College from 2008-2010 winning the Great Rivers Athletic Conference title in 2010. How tough was it having to wait two years to get the NCAA shot?
Playing basketball at community college wasn´t as big then as it is now. I played behind Derrick Rose in high school and it was tough because my talent wasn´t seen as much. I didn´t get any real interest from big schools, but more from little schools like Little Rock and Western Kentucky. Every kid dreams of going to a big NCAA school. I knew that if I took the chance of going to a Community College and maybe a bigger school might come for me that then I could leave early. Having this Community College experience was the best thing in my career. The competition level those two years was great, because there were 6-7 guys that all wanted the same goal to get to the NCAA. We pushed each other very hard. We all developed well and this experience really changed my life. Then almost every school contacted me and I went to UCLA. This was a huge stepping stone in my career. God always put me where I wanted to be and I rolled with it.
You have won titles in Hungary and Turkey, but how special is it having the distinction of being only the third junior transfer in 30 years to play for UCLA?
To be honest, I really hold this distinction close to heart. I worked so hard at Community College and I wasn´t even thinking of UCLA. The two years at John A Logan College were the toughest in my life and made me who I am today. I remember I was always shooting in the gym and that hard work was already enstilled in me then. My family is all about hard work and having that work ethic has been huge for me in my career.
You played at UCLA from 2010-2012 What were your fondest memories there?
My time at UCLA was great. My fondest memory was playing in the men´s gym against the professionals like Earl Watson, Russell Westbrook, Baron Davis, and Blake Griffin. There were so many that I could go down the list. The other fondest memory was meeting Tyler Honeycutt and becoming one of his closest friends. He was a great teammate.
In your senior year Larry Drew 2 didn´t play because he was sitting out the year due to transfer rules. He had come off averaging 4,4ppg at North Carolina. Did you notice then that he would do good things in his career?
Larry practiced with us. He is a really good player. He is crafty and athletic and an even better shooter now than he was then. We would have been even better at UCLA that season had he played in the back court.
I interviewed Tyler Honeycutt at the start of the year and he came over as a very nice guy. You were teammates with him one year. What memories do you have of him and how shocked were you off his death?
I am still shocked to this day about his death. When I see photos of him today I am still shocked. He was a light and so nice. He was always positive. No one saw this coming. He was one of the funniest guys that I know. My fondest memories was just spending time with him. I remember when I came to L.A from Chicago to play at UCLA, he would take me all over the place. His family embraced me as well, Even when he left UCLA and played with the Sacramento Kings, I would visit him there and we would kick it.
How did head coach Ben Howland groom and prepare you best for a professional basketball career.
He was a great coach. I remember when I set foot on the UCLA campus, he told me if I want the starting point guard job, it´s mine to lose. He knew that from where I was coming from that I had that mentality to fight for a spot. He was a real professional and was always by the book. He always preached to be professional and work hard. He always wanted us to understand exactly what we had to do before stepping on the court. I always watched video and knew the scouting report before I stepped on the court. We had a great relationship on the court.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Larry Drew 2?
We didn´t really play one on one, but were always up against each other in guard play. He really helped me defensively with his game. I was always a good defender against bigger guards, but he was smaller and quicker and he helped me be able to guard better against smaller guards. I have always tried to take something form each teammate to help my game.
Who was the toughest player that you faced in the NCAA that went to the NBA?
I played against many good point guards. I remember Derrick Williams as being the most dominant. His confidence was through the roof. He was a nightmare on the court.
If you had to construct your very own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?
Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Isaiah Thomas and Shaq
What is your personal opinion of the never-ending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Jordan or Lebron?
I explain it to everybody like this. Jordan is the GOAT and Lebron is the best all around player of all-time.
What was the last movie that you saw?
The last movie that I saw was Harlem Nights. I would like to thank my parents Allen and Trina Jones, my younger brother Allen Jones Jr, my wife Tangie Jones, and my daughter Kailyn Jones for allowing me to pursue my dreams. They are my world.