The competitive clock is ticking 365 days a year for Valpo Vikings boys basketball players Mason Jones and Cooper Jones. They use it to their advantage to pull their team – and each other – forward.
Cooper (50), a junior post, and his brother Mason (33), a freshman wing, are always looking to outdo each other, but in the end, the siblings always know the common goal.
“At the end of the day we know we are on the same team, here and at home,” Cooper said. “We both know to never take it personally. We are doing everything we can to drive each other to be better.”
According to MaxPreps, Cooper averages 9.2 points per game to Mason’s 7.9. Cooper: 1.9 assists to Mason’s 1.3. Cooper has 7.3 rebounds per game to Mason’s 4.
On the court, Mason – a freshman on a varsity team - admits he’s a little more comfortable challenging his older brother but is still hesitant around the other upperclassmen. But his age hasn’t stopped him from stepping in to lead when needed.
“Sometimes I get some weird looks, but it doesn't bother me,” Mason said. “I know I'm young; I just want to make sure I am doing my part to help this team get better.”
Being brothers on the court reinforces their commitment to teamwork.
"It is like being part of a different family, with a lot more brothers in the mix. We spend a lot of time together, it is a wonder we don't get sick of each other,” Cooper said. “I feel like this has given us the chance to develop a bond a lot of people wish they could have.”
And, the healthy sibling rivalry has helped them grow.
"I think it has made us a lot more patient with each other. Things can get heated in the moment of a game or practice, but we always have to try to look at the bigger picture,” he said.
Cooper feels like the Vikings found their stride after a couple of hard-hitting 20-plus point losses this season.
“Since that moment, I felt like we have been improving every day,” Cooper said. “Our goal now is to win sectionals. The entire team feels like this will be our year to do it.”
The boys' ability to lead resonates with their teammates and coaches.
“These boys are both tremendous competitors,” said Barak Coolman, Vikings head coach. “They are fun to coach, and it has been great to watch them turn into tremendous men off the court.”
Every team and every player has their own way of getting into the zone to get ready for the game. For the Jones boys, it’s music. Loud, and fast.
“On the way to every game, we have heavy metal blasting in the car,” Mason said. “If we had to pick one song, I would say it would be one by Iron Maiden. It provides the perfect level of hype and focus.”
When they aren't at school or practice, they are being typical teenagers, though in different ways. Both are multi-sport athletes and play football for the Vikings as well.
Cooper's hard work has paid off in scholarship offers from Ohio State, Michigan, and Indiana. When he gets the chance, he enjoys spending time with friends and teammates.
Mason winds down with the conventional Netflix binging. His top choice is The Office.
Both Cooper and Mason have played sports since they were children, carrying on a family tradition. Their parents were high school and college athletes as well.
Catch Cooper and Mason and the rest of the Valpo Vikings as they inch closer to sectionals during Saturday’s home game against Crown Point at 7 p.m., at Valparaiso High School, 2727 N. Campbell St., Valparaiso.