Jones brings luck to the court at Robert Morris
Vicki Jones believes her only son is lucky to be alive.
So much so that, at her sister's suggestion, she began calling the young boy "Lucky," a twist on his legal name, Lucious.
Lucky Jones is a freshman swingman for Robert Morris, a spark plug off the bench who's adept at snagging key rebounds and chasing down loose balls.
It's a fighting spirit and refusal to quit that carried him through a scary infancy, one that included a battle with Hirschsprung's disease -- basically a blockage of the large intestine -- two major surgeries, a blood clot, hernia, collapsed veins and morphine to dull the pain.
All of this before his first birthday, which his family never celebrated because of Lucky's myriad health problems.
"I thank God every day that I'm alive," he said. "I don't try to forget about anything; I just live life every day happy and glad to be on this earth."
It's not hard to understand why.
Lucky was born April 22, 1993, at Saint Michael's Medical Center in Newark, N.J. He weighed 9 pounds, 9 ounces and measured 21 inches -- hardly a tiny baby. But three days after he was born, his bowels still weren't functioning.
After getting a barium enema, he was sent home. He started to swell severely about five days later. His bowels still wouldn't work, a result of Hirschsprung's. He was frighteningly pale.
Vicki took her son back to the hospital, where doctors performed emergency surgery -- 22 days after he was born -- to remove part of his colon.
"When they did surgery on him, they told me before that he might not look like your baby, but he's still your baby," Vicki said. "We're talking about someone who was born 9 pounds, 9 ounces and looked like he was every bit of 20 pounds at just two weeks old. That scared me."
During that time, Lucky encountered a rash of other health issues, including a hernia caused by his inability to go to the bathroom, so painful that doctors had to put him on morphine.
He also developed a blood clot -- only doctors couldn't insert an IV to administer the necessary medication because Lucky's veins had collapsed, which forced them to insert a main line into his thigh.
"That first year was terrible," Vicki said.
Finally, after about 11 months of having a colostomy bag strapped to him, Lucky's health started to improve, and he became well enough to have a second surgery to repair the twisted intestine.
"We called him 'Lucky' and told him, 'You're really lucky because you went through more than any child in our family ever went through,' " Vicki said. "Nobody in our family had ever even heard of (Hirschsprung's) before."
Growing up, Lucky always was big for his age. In Pop Warner football, he played with the 12-year-olds when he was 9 -- and was a lineman.
Vicki noticed looks when, while out in public, her son appeared to be a rambunctious 6-year-old with no discipline.
"People would look at him like, 'What is this kid doing?' " she said. "And I would have to explain to them that he's only 2. He was just so big."
Lucky still is excitable, and he's equally as distractible. Robert Morris coach Andy Toole, who at 31 years old is not much older than his players, can't help but laugh when he launches into the story of how, during a recent practice, he had to stop in the middle of a drill to reel in his 6-foot-5 freshman.
"I glanced to my left, and Lucky is literally standing in the corner of the court, spinning in a circle like a top," Toole said. "He was just sort of looking up at the ceiling. I didn't know what he was doing, and I lost all train of thought.
"I asked him what he was doing, and he had no response. He was just staring off into space and not really paying attention, completely zoned out. There are a lot of times where we have to rein him back in and make sure he's paying attention."
Jones' college career has been equally as curious.
He grabbed 13 rebounds in the home opener, an 83-57 win over Rider on Nov. 11. But he has snagged more than eight only once since despite averaging about 21.2 minutes as one of the first Colonials off the bench.
Jones averages 6.6 points and scored 16 against Hampton on Tuesday, but three times he has been held to one or no points.
In 13 games, Jones has accrued three or more personal fouls five times.
"He has some focus issues, and that's the type of personality he has where he just gets lost in outer space," Toole said.
"I know I haven't done everything that I'm capable of doing," said Jones, who went to high school at national power St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J. "But that's what I'm continuing to strive to do. Just try to work hard to achieve my goals."
Some of those include owning his own business, perhaps a designer clothing line, restaurant or nightclub -- logical next steps for a business management major.
His childhood experiences have shaped his personality, allowing him to juice the last drop of joy out of every day -- sometimes to a fault. But Jones also knows that "Lucky" is only a nickname, that if he wants to conquer this second stage of life, he'll have to buckle down and focus.
"It was a blessing that everything was able to come out the right way, and I had no other problems with my body," Jones said. "I just look at it and say that it's something I need to work hard for. Obviously, I was put on this earth for a reason, and I have to live up to that. Not only living up to my name, being the boy named 'Lucky,' but also showing that I'm thankful to be here."