Q&A: Meet the security guard who got a shot at pro ball with invite to Santa Cruz Warriors workout
Jon Amey, a full-time security guard at Chase Center in San Francisco, recently got a shot to prove his skills as a professional basketball player during an invite-only workout with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors. Though he didn’t make it in the end, he sat down with Lookout to talk about his experience.
In September, the Santa Cruz Warriors held their G League player invitational workout at Chase Center in San Francisco — home of their parent club, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. While plenty of promising young players come to show off their skills, one invitee stands out for a different reason.
Opening night ahead
Nov. 5: Warriors vs. Stockton Kings, 7 p.m.
Where: Kaiser Permanente Arena
Bonus: All fans in attendance will receive a free opening night t-shirt.
Before then: Preseason games vs. Ciudad de México Capitanes on Friday and Saturday (7 p.m.) & vs. the G League Ignite at Chase Center on Wednesday (1:30 p.m.)
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Jon Amey, a full-time Chase Center security guard, was invited to the player development showcase after years of telling the coaching staff that he could play, and that he would love to prove it to them. Though in the end he did not make it past the workout, the 26-year-old from Oakland said it was an experience of a lifetime.
He sat down with Lookout to recall how it came about and the things he’ll never forget.
Q: When you were younger, what position did you play? What was your play style like?
As a kid when I used to play on the Pop Warner teams, I used to play power forward and center because I was taller than most of the kids around my age. Then toward grade school, high school, and college I played more of the point guard position because I didn’t get any taller than 6 feet, so I didn’t have much of a choice but to move to that role and learn how to play it well.
Q: Did you have any idols in the league growing up or anyone you tried to model your game after?
I was really big on Allen Iverson. That was really my guy because of his attitude and his game. I just liked how, even though he played on a really tough team without much of a supporting cast, he always took on a leadership role where he made sure that his teammates were involved. Another guy would be Russell Westbrook because he’s similar to my play style: very aggressive, very physical, loves to dunk and has a whole lot of energy.
Q: Did you ever play in college or anything past that?
In college (at Cal State East Bay) I only played intramural sports, so just the recreational league within the college. I did that for a couple of years and then I participated in a lot of basketball classes just because I wanted to continue to play the sport. I’ve been in it for a long time, but then after college I just played a lot of pickup games at the street courts and stuff like that.
Q: Was there ever a time when you felt that you had more to offer to the game after college?
I felt like I could make an impact because I’m a very good defensive player. You know, defense seems to be lacking in the league at the moment, and I felt like I could put that presence in the NBA or G League or playing overseas. Whatever option I was offered I just felt like I could make an impact wherever I went.
Q: I have to know how this came about. Walk me through the story of getting invited to the G League invitational.
So before the invite, every time I saw [Director of Team Development] Ryan Atkinson or any of the basketball operations personnel, I would tell them, “Hey, you should get me down there one day because, you know, I can guard this person, I can guard these guys,” and just say stuff like that all the time.
He’d just say, “Yeah, we’ll get you down there one day,” and I thought we were just playing around. Then one day, maybe a few months prior to the invite, Ryan came up and said, “You can ball a little bit, right?” I said I’d been playing for a little while; I can play good defense, not a good shooter but I can do everything else, so he says he’s gonna get me in for a tryout.
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The whole time, I’m thinking he’s playing and just running his mouth. Then a little later [Santa Cruz Warriors General Manager] David [Fatoki] asks if I’m ready to come down tomorrow, and then I got really excited. I was like, “Oh man, they’re really gonna put me down there!” Had to get my body ready for it and they made sure I had all my information and vaccinations. I used my personal day to take the day off so I could go and do what I needed to do.
Q: What was it like getting out onto the court and realizing that it’s really happening?
It’s extremely exciting because I’m in a room with future all-stars, Hall of Famers, you name it. They’ve been playing forever and obviously they’re bigger than me and more physical. They’re all 200-plus pounds and I’m here weighing 167. Kind of small for this work, but I wasn’t gonna let that discourage me now. I went out there and did all the passing and shooting drills, where I realized the professional courts are a lot bigger and wider compared to the ones I play at on the streets. I had to adjust my shots a little bit, and it was tough trying to shoot those 3-pointers. I went, I think, 5-for-20, so I guess that’s all right for shooting that type of range.
Q: If you had to choose one thing, what gave you the biggest rush?
I felt like the passing, where a guy runs to you and passes the ball, then you pass it back before he gets close to you, then he gives it back, and then I have to pass it back again at close range. I’ll tell you, that was one of the most confusing things ever at first. I finally figured it out towards the end, but I had never even done that before so I kind of felt a little out of place — I got a good sweat out of it.
Q: Despite not making it, what’s your biggest takeaway and what’s going to stick with you for the rest of your life?
Being focused and learning how to compete at an elite level is very important. Making sure that my mindset is ready for certain situations, prioritizing speed and communication and all that plays a role in the game. Just watching how the players communicate with each other to make sure they do what they need to do. It’s a lot more than just running and shooting, so I learned that communication and your awareness is really important.
Q: Is there anything you’re going to take from it into your daily life even if it’s not basketball-related? Anything that will inspire you for years to come?
The most important thing is self-discipline and humility. My main sport currently is martial arts so I think self-development, discipline and just being humble in the sport is big. Just not having an ego and coming in there with a mindset to get ready. I’ll always remember to be professional and ready to go.