NEW YORK — The NBA draft will be held on Thursday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the NHL draft will be following Sunday.
The NBA's draft will be at the Nets new home, while the NHL draft will be at their old one, as the NHL will hold its draft at Newark's Prudential Center.
On that night, the son of current Brooklyn Nets assistant head coach Popeye Jones may make history. Seth Jones, Popeye's son, is projected to be a lottery pick in the NHL's draft and possibly the first ever African American to be selected with the first overall pick in NHL Draft history.
At the moment, Popeye's job status with the Nets is a bit murky. His contract expires on June 30 and as of right now, it is not believed that new Nets coach Jason Kidd wants to retain him on his staff. Jones has interviewed with at least one other team, and his time in Brooklyn may be coming to an end. Even still, he spent two years with the Nets in Newark, so visiting his former home on the day his son may make NHL history will be special.
What led Seth, an African American kid, to play hockey instead of basketball? It is a good question, especially since his father was an 11-year NBA veteran, playing in the league from 1993-2004.
According to Popeye, it was a number of things.
"I think it's more of his (older) brother, the city we were in, Denver, the suburban neighborhood, roller hockey, those things,” Jones told SNY.tv.
The former NBA center was also a fan of the game himself.
“I started being a hockey fan in 1993. I went to a Dallas Stars game when I was playing,” he recalled, recounting his days as a Dallas Maverick.
Popeye also points out there are similarities between basketball and hockey, some that he has grown to appreciate more and more with time.
“It’s a team sport, you have to have spacing, there are give and goes like basketball, picks like basketball,” he told SNY.tv.
There is always an epiphany when a parent realizes a child has potential in sports, or anything else for that matter. When asked when he saw the potential in his son, Popeye says it was pretty early.
“I think probably when he was 12 or 13, he said." "He had always played with older kids, and was still one of the most talented. His dream as a little boy was to be an NHL player.”
But through it all, Popeye wanted his son to focus on school, like most parents.
“I wanted to make sure that education was first. He's a very smart kid, he graduated from high school in three years. He took the time to take online classes and take summer classes,” he recalled.
Between then and now, Seth has become a household name amongst NHL fans, but the road here was not easy. Especially when Popeye thought that his son may have been facing too much pressure, too soon.
“When he was in Sports Illustrated at age 14, I thought it was too much pressure,” Popeye recalled. But, as the 18-year old Seth prepares for the 2013 NHL Draft, Popeye thinks that his son has handled it all in stride. "I think he's ready for it, he's excited for it, I'm excited for it.”
After he completed high school, instead of enrolling in college, Seth Jones decided to play a season in the Western Hockey League for the Portland Winterhawks.
In May, Seth's season with the Winterhawks saw his team lose to the Halifax Mooseheads in the Mastercard Memorial Cup. Still, it was a successful season that saw Seth earn Rookie of the Year honors.
And now, as Seth prepares to begin his NHL career, he spoke with SNY.tv about his journey.
Seth recalls falling in love with the game of hockey at the age of 12 or 13. "I loved the game, the speed of the game and the competitiveness," he said.
Now, for Seth, the waiting is over. It is no longer a question of "if" he will play in the NHL, and it is not even a question of "when," since we know it will be next season.
The only question that remains is whether or not he will be the first overall pick and the first African American to be selected with that pick.
"It would mean a lot for me," he said. "It's a special thing.... I could be a part of history."
Despite it all, Seth seems fairly grounded, especially with one revelation.
“I’m not Jackie Robinson,” he said.
That is obviously true, but he does have the potential to become an icon and help expose the game of hockey to the African American community. That is especially true if Jones signs with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports, which has been rumored.
If successful, Jones could help the game appeal to new audiences and new markets, similar to what Tiger Woods did for golf.
“Hopefully, me playing the sport will encourage other African-American kids to play hockey," Seth told SNY.tv.
"It would be pretty cool to be a role model for little kids.”
Now, the waiting is over. On Sunday, we will find out where Jones will begin his career, and where he will begin the next phase of his career.