Jan. 25, 2002
By Ken Kleppel
No individual journey to Notre Dame is alike.
Just ask the trio of Irish sophomores.
The conventional route: a second-generation college athlete from a basketball-rich metropolis where the game, like royalty, must be in the blood.
The not-so conventional route: the hard-working son of religious pastors who found a way to put himself on the map from the corner of the country.
The really not-so conventional route: a near seven-footer born on the other side of the Atlantic whose two-year high school visit transformed into at least a six-year stay.
But while the starting point may vary, the destination remains the same for Torrian Jones, Chris Markwood and Tom Timmermans.
And majors in the Mendoza College of Business are not the only common characteristics.
“They all came here together in the same class because they saw this program moving up and wanted to be a part of it. They all wanted to contribute,” says junior guard Matt Carroll.
“They are so different in many ways, but they are also the same. They have a great work ethic as far as school and on the court.”
Like the plot to a predictable screenplay, the path for Torrian Jones was almost scripted.
“I kind of knew from the start what I was going to do,” says Jones.
“Once I started playing basketball, I found my niche and knew that’s what it was going to be.”
Jones experienced significant exposure growing up just miles north of Philadelphia in Fairless Hills, Penn. In addition to watching games at historic venues like The Palestra and The Spectrum, Jones would learn from uncles Mike and Gary Jones who played college basketball at Rutgers and LaSalle, respectively.
“To grow up outside of Philadelphia is great because you have opportunities to gain experience against good players. Coming from a basketball family, I have a lot of experience around the game. My uncles have been supportive, along with everybody in my family. Everybody has had their own input into helping me get to where I am today.”
Not only did his uncles instill in Jones a love for the game but, more importantly, they helped develop his commitment to defense.
“Always known as great defensive players, my uncles greatly influenced me to become a good defensive player myself,” says Jones, who worked on his game at home with his uncles over the summer.
“They taught me to take it personally when you are playing defense, and always try to dominate the offensive player.”
Before following in their footsteps in earning a Division I scholarship, Jones would first follow his uncles to Pennsbury High School.
Honored as the 1999-2000 Player of the Year for the counties of Bucks and Montgomery by the Philadelphia Enquirer, Jones finished as the fourth all-time leading scorer in school history. The go-to-guy on his prep squad, Jones averaged 22.0 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks per game as a senior despite missing nine games to start the season.
And following the lead of Jimmy Dillon, Martin Inglesby and Matt Carroll, Jones became the fourth Irish guard in six seasons to jump from greater-Philadelphia to Notre Dame.
But Jones’ following days are over.
Today, he serves as an emerging leader and dependable role player for the 2001-02 Irish. Considered a sixth starter, Jones provides immediate energy off the bench as a defensive stopper.
Jones scored six points and blocked a last-second Red Hawk three-point attempt that could have tied the game at Miami (Ohio), as the majority of his 22 minutes came in the second-half against the top Miami scorer. On the receiving end of a Ryan Humphrey tip-pass, Jones connected on a game-tying layup at West Virginia with just 42 seconds remaining to tie the score and key the biggest Irish comeback win on the road in BIG EAST play.
“If you watch me play from last year to this year, just the way I carry myself is different,” says Jones.
“Last year, I was trying to think too much instead of just letting my instincts take over and play the game. I would get out there and was too indecisive. This year, I’ve calmed down and let the game come to me rather than attack and try to make everything happen quickly.”
“Torrian is a great asset to our team,” says senior forward David Graves.
“He is athletic, long, bounces around and knows his role. Game to game he shows consistency. We get the same effort out of him each night and that’s what you need in college basketball.”
Consistency is just as important to Markwood.
“He’s very intense on the court,” says Jones.
“He brings it every day for 40 minutes, whether it is a game or practice. He comes hard on defense, runs the team at the point guard position and is a skilled offensive threat. He is an all-around great player.”
A former Maine Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Maine Player-of-the-Year, Markwood missed the entire 2000-01 campaign after undergoing successful arthroscopic knee surgery on Sept. 29, 2000.
But an unwavering Markwood chose to focus on his response.
“On the court, it did help me a lot to sit away from the game for a year and try to figure out different things that I can incorporate into my own game,” says Markwood.
“Because I was away for so long, coming back I had my peaks and valleys. But I am doing a good job and am looking forward to keep moving on.”
It is this intangible inner-strength which defines Markwood. With both parents serving the community as pastors, a work ethic acquired through his family’s influence shapes Markwood’s demeanor.
“I think my approach to life and the game of basketball really comes from my parents,” says Markwood.
“They are really disciplined people. The way they approach work, everyday life, and family has rubbed off on me and I can’t thank them enough for that.”
The steady diet of Sunday school and church services as a youngster keeps making a difference.
“I’ve always felt that God gives people the talent to be really great players,” says Markwood.
“For me, I feel that the one talent God gave me is the fact that I can work hard. I want to put forth a hard-work effort to get the job done. I feel like everyday I am going to get better and keep improving.”
Thus far Markwood has done just that. Making his college debut in the season-opener against New Hampshire, Markwood is working to solidify his position on the court. But in the lockerroom, his role may already be established.
Following a slow team start against Army on Nov. 28, Markwood addressed his squad at halftime.
“Markwood said in the lockerroom we weren’t playing ‘Grimy,'” says Humphrey.
“They were beating us to loose balls and were just being tougher than us. What he said was true and I kind of took offense to it.”
The Irish responded by outscoring the Black Knights by 25 points in the second half to earn their sixth victory of the season.
“All my life, on every team I’ve played on, I’ve been the vocal leader,” says Markwood.
“He is very business-like on the floor,” adds Graves.
“He is no-nonsense and goes after you.”
“Confidence is the one thing that will get you through the hard times, knowing you had the ability and that you are capable of doing the things you want to do,” says Markwood.
“Each game is a stepping stone for what you’re trying to get at.”
Timmermans shares the sentiment.
From the Netherlands to Blue Ridge (Va.) Academy to Notre Dame, ascending one stepping stone to the next characterizes Timmermans’ four-year stay in the United States.
And Timmermans learns with each giant stride.
“I feel I’m still improving and take every opportunity to get better. I will never slack off. Whenever we have practice, I will go full out. In the weight room, I will go full out.”
Timmermans saw his first action as a sophomore against Alabama in the Nokia Sugar Bowl Classic, after missing the first nine games with a sprained right knee. He played a career-high 19 minutes against Colgate, finishing with personal bests of six points and four rebounds in the contest.
Yet experience earned as a freshman set the foundation for the future. Practicing each day against All-America Troy Murphy, Harold Swanagan and Humphrey taught Timmermans a lesson in endurance.
“I learned a lot last year playing against those guys,” says Timmermans.
“The pace of the game and the strength you need to play the center position is so important. You have to be strong or otherwise you won’t make it. In the off-season I worked out a lot and got a lot stronger.”
But Timmermans’ toughest transition was certainly not putting on nearly 40 pounds of muscle weight over the summer.
How about coming from a place where windmill means much more than just a fancy slam-dunk, and enduring a trans-Atlantic voyage to the United States as a 17-year-old kid?
“As soon as I started to play basketball, I had a dream that I wanted to go to the United States for at least one year. I am lucky now this being my fourth year here,” says Timmermans.
Although Timmermans plans to one day return to The Netherlands as a businessman, he is developing quite nicely in South Bend
“He is his own person and own individual, but all the students and people on campus love him,” says Graves.
“But he has his moments on the court and when he does he’s an absolutely bear. He is just going to get better and better.”
For Jones, Markwood and Timmermans, three separate tracks lead to one common end.
“There is a team spirit. We are all winners and work hard to get to that common goal. There are no selfish guys on the team and everybody does what they have to do to help the team win,” says Jones.