At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, 17-year-old Seth Jones has the athleticism, size and skating speed to make NHL scouts drool. He's a smooth skating hockey phenom who recently led the U.S. U-18 national team's defense across the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, helping the squad earn a 2011 IIHF World U-18 Championships gold medal. In short, Jones is the guy who every coach in college and junior hockey wanted.
Any of those reasons would be enough to engender plenty of extra attention for Jones, but the budding hockey prospect is used to it, for a rather surprising reason: He's the son of longtime NBA player Popeye Jones.
Now, the son of an NBA lifer -- the elder Jones is an assistant coach for the Nets now that his 11-year playing career is in the past -- is getting attention for turning his back on the more traditional American route of NCAA hockey to play for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, a respected franchise which is currently competing for the WHL title in the league's championship series. While others have made similar decisions in the past, few have had the pedigree and name recognition of Jones, who some have pointed to as the future face of an even more-integrated sport on skates.
It's not unusual for the progeny of great athletes to follow in the footsteps of their fathers (or mothers for that matter), but it is odd for a longtime basketball star to precede a hockey superstar in a family tree. For the younger Jones, who spent most of his formative years in Colorado before moving to Dallas with his father, hockey was a natural fit because of the success of the Colorado Avalanche while the Jones family was in Denver.
In fact, Seth Jones was so taken with the likes of Joe Sakic that he committed to take a full year of skating lessons before he ever started competing on a rink. As noted by USA Hockey magazine, that skilled skating foundation has set the stage for Jones' emergence as one of the top American hockey prospects in years.
Throughout all those years of development, Jones continued to get one question in each interview: What is it like to be a hockey player as the son of an NBA player?
"You know, it's typical," Jones told USA Hockey. "If I were a reporter, I'd probably ask the same thing. I don't get sick of it, but it definitely comes around a lot.
"It'd be awesome, however far I go in my career, to eventually be known as 'Seth Jones' and not 'Popeye's son.'"
The day when Jones is known simply for being a great hockey player may not be far away. In addition to Jones' skating skills, his size, vision and self-awareness of what he does well (and what he doesn't) puts him in a nearly one-on-one competition to be the top overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft with fellow junior hockey star Nathan MacKinnon.
"I move the puck well," Jones told Yahoo! partner the Hockey News. "I make the first pass and my skating is a huge part of my game -- I try to focus on my stride.
"Nothing comes easy. Nothing is going to be handed to you on a platter. It's what people don't see -- the practice, the workouts -- that matters."
Spoken like a prospect who has been taught well by a parent who went through the rigors of professional training himself, even if his training came in a different sport.