Author Thomas Wolfe had a book published posthumously in 1940 titled “You Can’t Go Home Again”. But in 2006, a song from Bon Jovi disputed Wolfe’s claim as the band sung “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?”
Well, Huntington native Myles Jones is living proof that Bon Jovi’s words were more accurate than Wolfe’s because the former Walt Whitman High School star is back home on Long Island playing for the Riptide.
“Being able to come home and play in front of home fans and seeing high school friends and just learning something new…I felt like this was the year to finally give it a try,” said Jones, who also currently plays for Chaos Lacrosse Club in the Premier Lacrosse League.
But how Jones finally made it back home to Long Island is a journey that has taken him through multiple levels of the sport and to multiple states. After being a four-time Suffolk County All-League selection in high school, Jones went on to play at Duke where he was a three-time All-American and helped the Blue Devils win a pair of national championships. At Duke, Jones had 126 goals and 105 assists for 231 points in 75 games.
In 2016, Jones was the first overall section by the Atlanta Blaze in the Major League Lacrosse draft and would also go on to play for the Chesapeake Bayhawks. But Jones was also taken in another draft in 2016 as he was a fourth-round pick of the New England Black Wolves of the National Lacrosse League. Now residing in Atlanta, Jones didn’t know much about box lacrosse other than attending some Georgia Swarm games.
“I didn’t really have much of an interest to play indoors because I didn’t know if I would fit with the game,” said Jones, who will turn 27 years old on March 15th. “When I was on the New England roster, I tried to get my rights released and picked up by Georgia so I could be on a practice squad here in Atlanta and not have to travel as much. That didn’t work out so I put thoughts on the backburner.”
That was until September 13, 2019 when the Riptide shipped forward Jordan Dunston to the Black Wolves in exchange for the rights to Jones, defenseman Ryan Fournier and the 24thpick in the NLL Entry Draft. Then discussions began about convincing Jones to give box lacrosse a try for a brand-new team that would be playing at the Nassau Coliseum, not far from his old Long Island stomping grounds in Huntington.
“I think it was just kind of the perfect storm,” said Jones. “New York came around and it was very enticing. I figured if I was going to do it, it would be great to have another reason to be at home.”
When this season started, Jones was still on the holdout list, exactly where he had been since being drafted by the Black Wolves. But on January 20, he signed a protected practice player contract and then made his NLL debut on January 25 when the Riptide took on the San Diego Seals at NYCB Live. This past Saturday, Jones suited up again as the Riptide took on the Swarm in Georgia, so he didn’t have to travel far from his new Atlanta home to be with his new team.
In two games as a transition player for the Riptide, the 6’5” 260-pound Jones has been focusing on the defensive end by picking up 11 loose balls and causing two turnovers. He’s also been a big, physical presence in front of the Riptide net, which could potentially present a matchup problem for other teams.
“I think he’s really progressing,” said Riptide General Manager and Head Coach Regy Thorpe. “He’s a big body that you can match up some size with. I think his upside is just scratching the surface. I think it’s huge for us. He’s a good team guy. We’re really happy he’s progressing and he’s earning his minutes.”
Outdoors, Jones has a massive shot that has been clocked at over 100 miles per hour. This past season for the Chaos in PLL, he had seven goals and 10 assists for 18 points over nine regular season games, but now Jones is adjusting to life indoors in the NLL and adapting his skillset to the box game.
He’s been watching a lot of film and has spent a lot of time with defensive coordinator Joe Smith and offensive coordinator Marshall Abrams going over the finer points of the game.
“How to play up-pace, how to play down-pace, how to play east-west picks, body positioning and all the zig-zag that these guys have second nature just from playing and having those reps,” said Jones. “It’s a lot of learning on my feet and learning quickly.”
Jones will have an extra week of learning as the Riptide are on a bye week before two games next weekend, Friday night against New England, the team that drafted him, and then Saturday night in Rochester against the Nighthawks.
So far, he’s pleased with his progress but knows he still has some work to do.
“For the most part, I’ve been making a lot of plays on the defensive end which is very exciting,” said Jones. “It’s very easy for me to be physical. Guys come across the middle and I’ll let them feel a cross check or two. I’m able to slide into small spaces and deliver some hits whether that’s coming across the crease, sliding up to a guy that is getting a pass in an opportunistic position to score. I’m able to lower the body and make some plays there.”
It’s just a matter of time before Jones becomes comfortable enough with the box game where he can become a big part of the offense as well. He’s been able to get off three shots on goal in transition, but he’s continuing to work hard in practice tailoring his shot to the box game where the net is smaller than outdoors, and the goalie is loaded with equipment.
Jones has been trying to find a way to unleash his massive shot and find the back of the net.
“I’ve been working on shooting the ball hard in situations at practice and I’ve had a lot of success scoring on the goalies and really know the different ways to trick the goalies and make the goalie move when I shoot,” said Jones. That’s not necessarily so much of a concern in outdoor because there’s so much of the net so you can blow it by the goalie in a good spot. With a little bit of the net showing here in the indoor game it’s a lot more shooting hard just on the pads and shooting it five-hole and making the goalie move and firing it the opposite way.
Jones has also been leaning heavily on Thorpe as well as some of the veteran players on the Riptide like Dan MacRae, Andrew Suitor, and John Ranagan for advice. He’s the newbie when it comes to indoor lacrosse, so Jones is paying close attention to what they’re telling him because he wants to be able to master the box game.
Especially when the head coach is in his ear.
“Every shift I go out there if I make a good play (Thorpe is) the first person to pat me on the back and say ‘good job’ and if I mess up, he’s the first person to tell me what I could have done a little differently. The captains and the older guys, the guys that have been around the game for a while, have also been very helpful. They’ve talked to me about different things in terms of things I do right and things I can also do a little better.”
The Riptide are looking for big things from Jones on the field, but his signing was also important to the franchise for other reasons. He’s one of the faces of the sport and has a huge national following in the lacrosse community. But he’s also from Long Island where he has a lot of family and friends that will be coming to Riptide games at Nassau Coliseum.
In other words, the Riptide are counting on him to be a box office attraction.
“It’s huge,” said Thorpe. “He’s a Long Island guy and that’s important to have guys that represent the community like he does. Although he’s living in Atlanta, Georgia now, he’s a Long Island guy. His fans are huge for our organization. We’ll need everyone to do sales. Every player and certainly Myles will help. Being a first-year team, we’re trying to grow a brand.”
Jones is just happy to be home on Long Island more often and a chance to do his thing in front of so many familiar faces in the stands. One of those faces is his mother Tracy, who still resides in Huntington, and is no doubt over the moon that her son is now playing for his hometown team.
“She’s definitely happy,” said Jones. “I broke the news to her and said ‘hey I’m going to be playing lacrosse at home on Long Island a lot more and playing for the New York Riptide’ and she said ‘alright cool done deal.’ Tell me when and I’ll be there. She and her sister were there [at my first game] and I’m sure many more of my family and friends and people that I grew up with will be in attendance.”
As Jones continues to get his feet wet with the Riptide and the National Lacrosse League, he’s relishing the extra time that he’s getting to spend on Long Island. Now residing in Atlanta full-time, he’s back home more than just on holidays and special occasions. And if he gets to the point where he masters the box game to compliment his accomplishments in the outdoor game, Jones can see himself being a member of the Riptide for quite a while.
“If I like it and I can see myself being successful and the coaches can see me being part of the team long-term, then that will be another decision I have to make in terms of really making this work and fully committing myself to this,” said Jones. “There was just no better way to get my feet wet than to play for my hometown.”
In the words of Long Island’s Billy Joel, “You’re my castle, you’re my cabin and my instant pleasure dome. I need you in my house ‘cause you’re my home.”
Welcome home Myles!