At this time last year, DeVante’ Jones was the starting point guard for the Michigan Wolverines, who ultimately averaged 10.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game and helped Michigan to a 19-15 regular season record and a Sweet 16 appearance.
After a stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder in NBA Summer League, Jones is now playing in France with Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 in LNB Pro A, the highest-tier level in French basketball.
Playing with probable No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama, Jones has averaged 6.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game while helping Boulogne-Levallois to a 6-1 record to open the season.
Maize n Brew caught up with Jones over Zoom about his time at Michigan, adjusting to playing in France, and playing with one of the best young players in the world.
Kellen Voss: Talk to me about how the season has gone so far. I saw you guys have started off 6-1, I’m assuming things are going well?
DeVante’ Jones: Everything is great. Just the atmosphere, the group of people, everything is just great. Playing with Victor (Wembanyama), playing with Tremont (Waters, former LSU guard) and Aaron (Henry, former Michigan State guard), some guys from America, it’s a great feeling.
KV: Is there any aspect of your game that you feel like has changed, or something that you’ve improved on since you left Michigan?
DJ: I would say my patience. Just being more patient offensively and defensively, just knowing when to be aggressive, knowing when to get my teammates involved. Just understanding the game and being more systematic, watching a lot of film. I think at Michigan I played at a way quicker pace than what I needed to be, so I think being over here helped me slow down my game and have a better understanding of it.
KV: Talk to me about the transition to now being a professional basketball player. I’d imagine this is a dream for you and you’re living it, right?
DJ: It’s definitely a dream. The difference is I feel like in college at Michigan, we had so much of a time-consuming schedule. I feel like being a professional, yeah you got set time where you have to do like team events, but I feel like you also have a lot more time to get your own individual workouts in, get your own space, get your own peace of mind. So I think that’s probably the biggest transition, just having to do something with all this free time that we have.
KV: I was wondering, has it been hard to bond with some of your teammates because of a language barrier of any kind? Any difficulty with that?
DJ: Not really. When I first got here there was, but that was kind of more because of me, just kind of being scared to interact. But I feel like as I got comfortable (it got easier) because they all speak English, so it’s not really hard at all. Honestly, I love the guys. They’re all funny. They all got different characteristics about themselves, so it was easy for me to fit in.
KV: What’s it been like living in France, man? It’s a whole new country, I heard the food’s great over there, how’s that been?
DJ: The food is great. Driving was difficult at first just trying to read some of the signs, I think some people out here just drive a little more crazier. But living in Paris, man, this is a dream come true. This is a place that a lot of people dream of coming to just to visit and sight-see, so to have the opportunity to live here and play here for however long it’s going to be, I’m grateful.
KV: You mentioned that at Michigan there was a concrete schedule, a lot of stuff was scheduled out. What from your time at Michigan has helped you with your pro career now?
DJ: I would say just me taking those important conversations with guys who have been in the pros, like NBA, Juwan Howard, Howard Eisley, even talking to Phil (Martelli), Saddi (Washington), Chris Hunter, just talking to all those guys and picking their brains. I’ve always wanted to be in the NBA, but taking this route has also been a dream come true. I was picking their brains to see what I could do to stay on top of my game, what can separate me from guards my size, those conversations was real key.
KV: Do you still keep in contact with your former Michigan coaches and teammates?
DJ: Yeah, I talk to a lot of them. I talk to Hunter (Dickinson), I talk to Kobe (Bufkin), I talk to Jett sometimes, Jace, I talk to Juwan Howard, he hits me up sometimes. Saddi calls me. I talk to a lot of people. I even stay in contact with Frankie (Collins), Zeb (Jackson), also Adrien (Nunez). Once you’re a part of that Michigan family, no matter where you go or how far you go, it’s always going to be a family regardless. That’s what I love about Michigan.”
KV: Have you gotten a chance to watch the team yet this year? They’ve gotten off to a really nice start.
DJ: I actually watched them against Pittsburgh, I was excited for that just seeing how good they were. I was kind of shocked, I knew they would be good but I didn’t know they’d be this good this early. You know, last year with us, we struggled the whole year, so just seeing them be this good, it was amazing.
KV: Obviously you’re going to be pursuing your professional basketball career for many years now, I’m hoping you have a super long career, but what do you think will be the next step in your career when basketball is eventually over?
DJ: When I’m done, it’s a variety of things that I’ve thought about doing. I’ve thought about getting into acting, probably being an analyst, probably starting my own podcast because honestly, I’ve always wanted to stay around the game of basketball since I’m so comfortable with it. I’ve been talking to Juwan Howard a lot, just picking his brain to see what would be the best thing for me after basketball because like you said, the ball is going to stop bouncing at one point. Just talking to him, him giving me input and insight on what I can do and what I can take advantage of. I got a variety of things.
KV: Last question while I have you, what’s it been like playing with Victor Wembanyama? Obviously he’s projected to be the No. 1 pick in the draft, I’ve seen some highlights with you throwing alley oops to him and stuff. I’d imagine he’s a super fun guy to play with.
DJ: (He’s a) super fun guy. The one thing that shocks me is how humble he is. He’s getting all this media attention, he’s getting celebrities posting him, he’s just so humble about it, always working hard. Great guy, easy to play with, just throw the ball to the rim and he’ll go get it. He plays like a guard, which is crazy. It kind of reminds me of KD in that instinct, but he’s also got the length of Giannis (Antetokounmpo). He’s definitely the No. 1 pick in my eyes. I don’t see anyone else going No. 1 other than Victor, he’s an all-around great guy.