VALPARAISO | Despite a learning disability and awkwardness as a kid, Jim “Basketball” Jones went on to earn a master's degree and start two businesses.
On Monday, Jones offered advice on how to succeed to kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County and community members gathered for the 13th annual Steak and Burger Dinner at Valparaiso University.
“My mom would tell me three things growing up. First, she told me that I’m important. Second, she said, ‘I can, I will.’ And third, she said, ‘I won’t quit,'" Jones said. "I tell kids never to let their weaknesses hold them back. They have the ability to make it in life through the choices they make."
Jones, born in Chicago and raised in Cleveland, became one of the country’s top basketball handlers as a result of his juggling while studying in college, a method that he says helped him focus and manage his challenges.
“As a young kid, I was heavy, I stuttered, my parents shaved my head, and I was in special education classes. I struggled with dyslexia, but my mom worked hard with me and I had tutors," he said. "I was able to go to Bowling Green State University and studied English with a Chinese exchange student while juggling basketballs because it was how I could learn."
Jones said that because of his special needs, he had to read every chapter five times and his notes three times. He said he spent an extraordinary amount of time studying.
As a result, Jones graduated first in his class in college, obtained a master's degree in business administration, went on to a career in finance and started two successful businesses.
Analisa Warring, co-chair of the event, said she hopes Boys & Girls Clubs members hear and take Jones' message to heart.
“Tonight is a great chance for the community to interact with kids who are the future of Porter County, and Jim’s story is a fine example of inspiration and perseverance and overcoming obstacles,” Warring said.
Jones said character and effort are crucial in life success.
“You can’t be victorious and be a victim at the same time," he said. "They have the ability to make it in life through the choices they make.”
The event culminated the 40th anniversary celebration for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Porter County.