In the era of Jeff Foote ’10, Ryan Wittman ’10 and Louis Dale ’10, another player was coming to the forefront during the legendary 2009-10 basketball season: tri-captain Jon Jaques ’10.
After three seasons of limited play, Jaques had an explosive senior season compiling two 20-point games and leading the Ivy League in 3-point shooting overall with a 47 percent accuracy rate.
After a successful run in the NCAA tournament with his teammates and making it to the Sweet 16, Jaques graduated and left the world of collegiate basketball for a greater global arena — playing for the professional team Ironi Ashkelon in Israel’s premier league. So what brought Jaques, a then 22-year old originally from California, to Israel?
“I wasn’t ever planning on doing this, but after our season ended our coaching staff told me I could have an opportunity to play professionally in Israel because of my Jewish background,” Jaques said. “One thing led to another and the opportunity to see the world for a year and get paid to play basketball was something I couldn’t pass on.”
Even though the opportunity to play in Israel was not originally in the cards for Jaques, it seems as though the former Cornellian has adjusted well to his new career.
“I like it here,” Jaques said. “It took a couple of months to get situated, but I found a routine and got accustomed to the cultural [and] social differences. I started to enjoy myself more. It kind of feels like a temporary home now.”
But moving from the bustling city of Los Angeles, Calif. to a smaller town in Israel must have been an interesting change of scenery.
“The culture is different in Ashkelon where I’m living because it’s a smaller town. But if you go to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem you kind of feel like you’re back in the U.S.,” he said. “They are big, westernized cities with American stores, brands, signs. … The social scene in Ashkelon is limited compared to the bigger cities, but there’s still plenty to do.”
So, the arena is different, but it’s the same game, right? Five players. Two 20-minute halves. One winning team. According to Jaques, it’s a slightly different ballgame abroad. The pressure to improve individually is placed on each player’s shoulders, with a main focus of working together as a team.
“Practice is way different than it was at school. Here, they teach less and play more. In other words, the entire practice is basically 5-on-5 full court,” Jaques said. “At Cornell, we did way more fundamentals, drills, shooting — that sort of thing. If I want to work on my individual game, I need to stay after practice to work on it because skill work isn’t emphasized during the two hours of practice we have.”
Jaques goes on to explain how the pressure put on the players is nothing like what they felt playing basketball on the collegiate level.
“The pressure to win is so much different,” he said. “Not that we didn’t feel pressure at Cornell, but here basketball is a business. When you lose, owners, fans and coaches aren’t happy and they let you know about it. Every loss is magnified and every win kind of feels like more of a relief than anything else.”
Jaques’ record has been strong with Ironi Ashkelon so far this season, finding his place in Ashkelon after a breakout senior year at Cornell. In addition to playing basketball, Jaques has been making a conscious effort to assimilate into the local culture.
“I’ve had plenty of hilarious interactions over here,” he joked. “I think standing in lines is my favorite. The concept of a line doesn’t exist here — people just nudge and push without any mercy. You always have to be on your toes. At first I would get seriously frustrated, but I’ve learned to just have fun with it. I’m usually the biggest person in the line at the bank or for food, so I try to intimidate people by acting as angry and as crazy as possible.”
Original Author: Lauren Ritter