Last week we lost a Houston basketball icon in Dwight Elmo Jones, who passed away on July 25, 2016 after battling a heart ailment over a number of years.
Before Clyde Drexler dunked his way to H-Town fame at Sterling High School, helped establish Texas’ Tallest Fraternity, and claimed an NBA title with his hometown Houston Rockets, Dwight Jones had already established himself as arguably the greatest high school basketball player in Houston history. Born in 1952 in Houston, Jones led Wheatley High School to three straight state championships from 1968 to 1970, played for the Cougars from 1971 to 1973, and even contributed to the Houston Rockets, from 1976 to 1979.
Coaches and teammates of Jones remember him being a special talent from a young age. Playing as a man among boys, playground lore suggests he was already dunking a basketball in the seventh grade. In high school, his Wheatley Wildcats racked up a remarkable 102-2 record and as a senior he averaged 28 points and 24 rebounds a game for the Wildcats in the newly desegregated University Interscholastic League. Recruited by the legendary Guy V. Lewis, Jones played on two NCAA Tournament teams for the Cougars while also leading the 1972 USA Olympic team in scoring before being ejected in the infamous gold medal game, as the Americans fell to the Soviets. Jones was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1973 before joining the Rockets in 1976. His career in the NBA would run through the early 1980s and include stops with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers.
A fierce competitor, his resolve was no doubt tested when he heard himself declared dead prematurely in an emergency room in 2012. Yet, to everyone’s surprise (except perhaps those closest to him), he survived the surgery and battled his illness with a fervent spirit for nearly four more years. In remembering Jones, current University of Houston Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said, “Dwight was a tremendous competitor, who represented the University of Houston and his nation well during his playing career. While his health declined in recent years, he faced those challenges with the same courage and spirit that made him one of our program’s greats. Tonight, our hearts go out to Dwight’s family and friends and all those who knew and loved him.” The Jones family has established a gofundme page to help defray the expenses they now face.