By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The basketball bounces in a quiet, hot gym. There are no fans to cheer, no public address system announcing his name.
But Joseph Dawkins is there, hour after hour, getting ready.
The Bluefield State College point guard from New Jersey is spending this summer working on his game, looking ahead to the whistle blowing to start the season about four months from now.
“My motivation is to get better,” Dawkins said in a phone interview from North Carolina. “I want to get better; I want my team to be better. And if I’m better, my team will be better.”
Big Blues head coach Jamaal Jackson said, “He loves to be in the gym. He loves to work out. He knows the only way to get better is to work at it.”
The game itself came naturally to Dawkins. Maybe it’s in his genes.
“I really have a basketball family,” he said. “My grandmother and grandfather played; my uncles, all of that.”
One of those uncles, and a major influence on his life, is Kenny “The Jet” Smith, who scored 9,397 points and dished 4,073 assists with six NBA teams and won two league championships as the point guard for the Houston Rockets.
He’s now a TV basketball analyst, often seen on Inside the NBA on TNT — and he is Dawkins’ unofficial advisor on matters on and off the court.
“He gives me advice on everything, from game situations to how to handle myself at school,” Dawkins said.
The 6-foot-1 Dawkins said his uncle’s play influenced his decision to play at the point. “I always used to watch his game when I was younger,” Dawkins said. “And I’m relatively short, compared to most basketball players. All I wanted to be since day one was point guard — nothing else.”
He said his priorities at the position “are to make sure the tempo’s the right way. The passes get to the right person. You’ve just got to know what to do and when to do it. You’ve got to know when it’s time to push it up, and when to slow it down — when it’s time for me to score or to get someone else involved. My job is to manage all of those.”
Jackson, now preparing for his third year as Bluefield State hoops coach, said Dawkins is “a true point guard. He can distribute, he can contribute, and he can knock down the shots.”
“He’s a very good three-point shooter. He can catch and shoot, and he can shoot off the dribble. ... I told him before he joined us, we shoot a lot of threes and he’s a guy who can knock it down.”
“He reminds me a bit of (New York Knicks guard) Raymond Felton,” Jackson said.
Jackson recruited Dawkins while Jackson was an assistant coach at Kentucky State University, but the coach moved on from the school in Frankfort before Dawkins played a game.
After his freshman year at Kentucky State in 2008-09, Dawkins left the program. Since then he has taken college classes “here and there” but did not play intercollegiate basketball again until early this year.
When Jackson gave him an offer to play at Bluefield State, Dawkins said he realized “it was a second chance to get back on the court. I knew it was a second chance, and I didn’t want to mess it up. ... I appreciate what I have now.”
It was tough to come back to the college game. “I came in out of shape,” he said. “I saw how we ran up and down the court. It took me a little while — but I adjusted quickly.”
His first game action for Bluefield State took place on Jan. 5 in the Ned Shott Gym, playing against cross-county rival Concord. He played 22 minutes off the bench, scoring 10 points along with four rebounds and three assists.
His breakout game of the season was a 26-point effort, going 10 for 18 from the field on Jan. 26 in the team’s first win of the season, 84-75 at Glenville State College.
“It was a good game,” Dawkins recalled with understatement. “I got hot early. I felt like my old self in that game. I want to have a lot more of it this year.”
He said about last season’s Big Blues, “I loved the team. They were 0-12 when I got there. But they still had optimism, they didn’t get down on themselves. We fought to win the games we won.”
About the upcoming edition, he said, “Our coach is bringing in a lot of people. I’ve seen em playing. I’ve had a whole year to train this year; I think I will be three times better, (and) I think we’ll have a good season.”
Jackson said for Dawkins to reach his potential, “He just needs to work on his body.”
Part of that focus will be getting him to understand and to continue to practice proper nutrition — a challenge at a school without a full-service cafeteria at all hours of the day, in a city where fast-food options are readily available.
“He’s not a lean guy,” Jackson said. “If we don’t be careful, he would put on some pounds. ... We do the best we can to educate (players) about proper nutrition.”
The Big Blues have not yet announced a schedule for the 2013-14 season, but Jackson and Dawkins both know one thing.
“He knows I’m expecting a lot from him,” Jackson said.
Dawkins said, “He warned me before I stepped on campus that he was going to expect a lot from me. I’m up to the task. All my coaches have expected a lot from me, so I’m kind of used to it.”
Toward that end, Dawkins said, “I’ve been working with my old high school coach, and with my uncle, and playing in a men’s league, to stay in shape and get better.”
His normal routine includes waking up at 8 a.m. to run — and repeating that nightly “if I don’t have a game.”
The hours continue to pass by, adding up to continued improvement, Dawkins hopes.
“That’s what it takes, at any level,” he said. “To put in your own time.”
— Contact Tom Bone at