Valencia Basket's Chris Jones has passed through seven countries in eight years in pursuit of his basketball dreams.
Valencia's Chris Jones finds a 'home away from home'
The pro basketball path of Valencia Basket guard Chris Jones has been a roundabout one, featuring seven stops in seven different countries as he enters his fourth Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season. He is very much the definition of a basketball nomad.
The 30-year-old started his pro career in Mongolia, more than 10,000 kilometers away from Texas, where he grew up and went to both high school and university. From there he made stops in Switzerland (Starwings Basel, 2016-17), Belgium (Mons-Hainaut, 2017-19), Turkiye (Bursaspor, 2019-20), Israel (Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv, 2020-21), France (LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, 2021-22) and finally Spain (Valencia, 2022-).
Changing countries so frequently as a young pro couldn't help but impact him.
"My first couple years, it was tough, you know, like the language barrier, finding food, being away from family and friends, but I think over the years I kind of got adjusted to it," Jones explains in a sit-down interview with Euroleague Basketball.
"I feel like the toughest part is being away from home, just something you're not used to. I mean, [for] food you can kind of find things that you like, but I think being away from family and friends – and you only can talk through FaceTime and [Facebook] Messenger – I feel like that's the toughest part."
A chance to enjoy different cultures
Even though he has experienced so many different cultures, Jones says that he's a homebody at heart.
"Every country has its own unique thing, whether it’s the language or the different foods," he says. "Me personally, I'm kind of like a homebody. I mean, besides my teammates teaching me things about the culture, or seeing things online, I'm kind of to myself... My wife, she tries a lot of different things, so I'm forced to do it then."
Although some routine tasks can prove complicated when you change cultures annually, being a pro player has some perks, like when trying to find a new barber.
"Pretty much every country I've been to, somebody has written to me saying, 'Hey, I cut hair.' So you go through their Instagram page and see how they do," Jones comments. "Or you can ask a teammate or hopefully somebody who was there the year before, and it's like, 'Hey, who cut your hair here?' So, I feel like that's kind of the easy part."
The impact on his family
Moving from country to country understandably has a knock-on effect for the player's immediate family. Jones, a father of two boys, had to be away from his now-eight-year-old son in Mongolia and Switzerland, but since then his family has been on the same peripatetic journey with him.
"[My kids] like it a lot," Jones notes. "To them, it's kind of like a super long vacation; I'm doing all the work, but they like it. They travel, see different countries and [get] stamps on their passports. Family and friends back at home are just amazed by it and wish they could come out here for some time.
"The experience is nice for myself and my family. You know, I never thought growing up that I'll be traveling and seeing different parts of the world, but basketball does a lot for me."
Finding a place to call 'home'
Earning a three-year contract extension after his first year at Valencia means that Jones has finally found a basketball home, something he is very grateful for.
"Signing for another three years here, I think it's great for me and my family just to feel the family-oriented organization that [Valencia] is," Jones says. "I don't have to worry about the next couple of years of trying new things; I like the fact that I can come here and just be comfortable.
"Every year I've been to a different team in the hope of finding a home away from home. I was blessed to sign three more years here and, like I say, Valencia is home to me."