Willie Jones spent three seasons playing for UMKC during the NAIA era in the mid to late 1970s. He was a prolific scorer and rebounder. He was part of a team that reached the NAIA National Tournament.
Jones passed away in 2005. The way he played and the way he acted on and off the court left an indelible impression on his coach, Darrell Corwin, who helped recruit Jones out of Coleman Junior College in Alabama.
"Willie was probably the best all-around player I ever had," Corwin said. "He could really rebound.
"I don't think he ever met a stranger. He was well loved by his teammates, myself and he was just really a good guy. He was a good student, too."
The numbers Jones put up in his three seasons make it easy to understand why he is being inducted into the UMKC Athletic Hall of Fame.
Jones left UMKC as the second-leading career scorer in that period, scoring 1,327 points for a 15.3 average. He was UMKC's career NAIA leader in rebounding with a 1,087 for a 12.5 average.
Anytime a college player reaches the 1,000 mark in scoring and rebounding, he has put together a special career, one that will be remembered for many years to come.
UMKC made sure Jones' contributions to the basketball program will never be forgotten.
He joins Bill Frerking who made the inaugural Hall of Fame Class in 2009. Frerking played at UMKC in the early 1980s.
"I think it is really good that he is being recognized," Corwin said. "Bill Frerking was the first. I recruited him, also. Those two represent the 70s and 80s. There could be some others."
Some of those others might come from the 1976-77 team that won the District 16 tournament by beating Rockhurst 68-66 and then Missouri Southern 88-79 to advance to the national tournament at Kemper Arena.
The NAIA Tournament in the 1970s was a huge event in Kansas City and all the NAIA colleges in and around Kansas City wanted to make it.
The success of the 76-77 team was somewhat surprising. Jones was one of four junior college players Corwin brought in at the start of the season. The Kangaroos also had an all-district player returning.
"We recruited four freshmen from the Kansas City area that were all outstanding players," Corwin said. "They just meshed together and we had a great time."
UMKC finished the year 21-9. Their season ended in the first round of the NAIA Tournament with a 94-88 loss to Grand Valley State.
William Jewell coach Larry Holley remembers Jones.
"Willie Jones was a fine player," he said.
Jones shot 52.3 percent from the field his first season at UMKC and finished with an incredible career field goal percentage of 56.5.
Jones also saw a bit of the world by playing at UMKC. He was the leading scorer for a team of District 16 players who toured Latin America during the summer of 1977.
"His senior year he was co-captain," Corwin said. "He won the Milner Award, which was UMKC outstanding athlete at the time."
Simply put, Jones had a well-rounded career at UMKC.
"I was fortunate enough to get to coach him," Corwin said.
Those words would have made Jones proud.