The oldest public high school in the state of Florida has turned to a young assistant coach from Apalachicola to lead its basketball program.
Leon High School, which dates back to 1831, 14 years before Florida became a state, last week announced that it had chosen 25-year-old Kelsey Jones as its new head basketball coach.
A 2015 Franklin County High School graduate, who played guard for three years under coach Michael Sweatt, and one year under coach Mackenzie Williams, Jones began his teaching and coaching career at FCHS after graduating in 2020 from Florida A&M University with a bachelor's degree in health, leisure and fitness within the education department. He later earned a masters in sports management from FAMU in 2021.
As a teacher, the Apalachicola native taught elementary school physical education for the first half of last year, and for the second half had a teaching assignment at the alternative school.
As a coach, in his first year here he oversaw the middle school Seahawk football program, and this past season was an assistant coach for Dirk Strunk, working with defensive backs, wing backs and tight ends.
For the past two years he was the Seahawks’ head track coach, and for Ray Bailey’s basketball program, Jones coached the junior varsity program his first season here, and last year was an assistant coach working with the middle school program.
In the press release announcing Jones’ hire, Leon High School stressed his experience working as a graduate assistant with the FAMU women’s basketball team.
“While at FAMU, the team increased conference wins, total wins, and developed the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year, Alaina Rice,” it said. “Jones took on roles in scouting, player development, community relations, and was primarily responsible for the practice team.”
Kevin Lynum, the former FAMU head women’s basketball coach, commented in the release that “Leon High School has truly found themselves a jewel in Coach Jones. (He) is a worker, a self-starter, and will work tirelessly to improve whatever he is a part of."
Jones noted in an interview Sunday, that “since I’ve began coaching, I have always worked closely with the head coach. I have plenty of experience with leading program.”
This week he begins his role teaching ESE and directing the basketball program at the 6A school, which has more than 2,040 students in grades 9 through 12.
Jones said his first order of business on the basketball front during August will be “getting a head start (with players) to get their grades in order.”
When preseason conditioning begins in September, he’ll be taking stock of the program he inherits from Shawn Crowe, which went 11-16 last season and has lost five seniors to graduation.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I'm grateful to be able to share my experience, of all the work put into this point that has come to fruition.
“I am grateful for the opportunity in this community to teach here these past two years,” Jones said. “It was really good to be back home.”
Michael Bryan, Leon’s principal, said in the release that he is “excited to welcome Coach Jones to the Lion’s Den and feel blessed to have him. I am looking forward to what he has to offer our students both on the basketball court and in the classroom.”
Riley Bell, Leon’s athletic director, said Jones “will be a wonderful addition to our staff. I believe he is the right person for our kids, our parents, fans, and the Leon community.
“I look forward to watching him lead our athletes to success on the court and in the classroom and helping them develop into contributing members in our community,” he said. “Coach Jones has an ambitious plan for our basketball program, and we are excited to get started.”
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