Ex-Riordan star Jones discusses Jonestown massacre on ESPN

Rob Jones, a former Riordan basketball star and two-time Examiner Player of the Year, will be featured on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on Sunday.

The 19½-minute segment, entitled “Jonestown: The Game of Their Lives,” will air at 6:30 a.m. and focus on the effects of the 1978 Jonestown mass murder-suicide. Rob Jones’ grandfather was Peoples Temple leader Reverend Jim Jones and his father, JimJones Jr., was playing basketball 250 miles away in Georgetown, Guyana, when more than 900 people died deep in the jungle of the South American nation.

“This is very personal in the sense that basketball saved my life,” Jones Jr. said Tuesday. “And it’s been a pleasure watching Rob excel and achieve great heights using basketball as a vessel. It saved my life and it’s prospering him, and I’m so proud of what he’s accomplished.”

Jones Jr. did not pick up a basketball for years after the Jonestown incident, doing his best to reconcile the guilt he felt for surviving the tragic events. He slowly came back to the game when Rob Jones expressed an interest in the second grade and watched as his eldest son matured into a 6-foot-6, 230-pound star who is now a freshman forward at the University of San Diego.

“[For a long time] I was ashamed of basketball,” said Jones Jr., who was joined on the Georgetown trip by two brothers and 13 other teammates. “My oldest son has brought back the joy of basketball and that’s a special gift he has given me.”

Rob Jones said his mother and father have always been open with him and his two younger brothers about the infamous event and the family traveled to Guyana 20 years after the incident to visit the site. On the court, he used his physical frame, great athleticism and an uncanny gift for rebounding to average 17 points and 14 boards per game last year for a Riordan team that won 28 games and advanced to the NorCal playoffs. He was named the West Catholic Athletic League’s Player of the Year and said he takes pride in using basketball to have the Jones name associated with something good.

“I definitely see it as a kind of tool I can use … to take away some of the notoriety from the name,” Rob Jones said. “And change it into a positive.”

On TV

WHAT: “Jonestown: The Game of Their Lives”

WHEN: Sunday, 6:30 a.m., ESPN

melliser@examiner.com

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