When Western lacrosse star player Jordi Jones-Smith was 12 years old, he almost quit lacrosse. After getting cut from a competitive lacrosse team in Whitby, Jones-Smith was discouraged.
"I kind of thought I was going to finish lacrosse," recalled Jones-Smith. "I didn't really know if I wanted to play anymore."
Fortunately, a few weeks later, he received an important phone call that boosted his morale.
"I ended up getting a call back from the coach like two weeks later and he said, 'We want you back on the team,' so that was big," said Jones-Smith.
But a few years later, he got cut again and it stung once more.
"It was tough for me growing up because I got cut quite a bit. I worked through quite a bit of adversity," said Jones-Smith . "It was just upsetting but you've got to push on through."
The coach that cut him from the teams in Whitby was professional lacrosse coach Derek Keenan.
Keenan is currently the head coach and general manager of the Saskatchewan Rush in the National Lacrosse League. Even though he cut Jones-Smith from his teams a few times, he definitely had a large impact on the development of Jones-Smith as a player.
"I grew up playing for [Keenan] my whole life," said Jones-Smith. "He’s an unbelievable coach. He’s won multiple titles of best coach in the NLL and he just knows how to win.
"He ... always pushed us to that next level," he added.
The fourth-year criminology student also attributes much of his success as a lacrosse player to his older brother A.J., who also played lacrosse in Whitby.
"Watching my brother play was unbelievable," said Jones-Smith. "He was an offensive player and I always wanted to be like him."
Shortly after Jones-Smith started playing lacrosse, A.J. actually quit the sport because he lost his passion for the game. However, after watching the success of his young brother, A.J. has recently decided to give lacrosse another try.
"It's funny that Jordi started playing lacrosse after watching me because watching him play lacrosse when I was a lot older got me back into playing," said A.J. "I'd go watch his games and it made me miss the sport and actually made me get back into it."
Another factor in A.J.'s return to the sport is the opportunity he was given to play with his younger brother this summer.
The two of them will be competing for a Canadian club team named the Clarington Green-Gaels in a tournament in May in Prague, Czech Republic. It is an international tournament against club teams from all over Europe, similar to the Spengler Cup hockey tournament.
As for his time with the Western Mustangs, it's clear Jones-Smith has had a lot of success in his four years on the team. He has helped bring the team to the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association final twice and has been a leader on the team.
However, he did not always know he was going to be a Mustang. Some interest from division III colleges in the United States almost lured him out of the country to play lacrosse.
"A lot of kids go down to the States just for the title of going down to the States. For me it's more about the education," said Jones-Smith. "CUFLA is getting better every year and the quality of lacrosse is getting better and I'm happy with my decision [to stay in Canada], especially with the education."
It was certainly the right decision for Jones-Smith to go to Western when you look at all he has accomplished this year. He helped lead the Mustangs to a second-place finish in the CUFLA championship in November and he got drafted into the NLL in September.
Although the New England Black Wolves took him in the sixth round of the entry draft, he unfortunately did not make the roster after attending a tryout with the team in November.
Jones-Smith said a large factor in his lack of success at the tryout with the Black Wolves was the difficult transition from playing field lacrosse all fall with Western to playing box lacrosse indoors.
"In field lacrosse, I’m more of an offensive player but in box lacrosse I just sometimes can’t bury," said Jones-Smith.
Western lacrosse head coach Jeremy Tallevi thinks that making these improvements won't be too difficult for Jones-Smith.
"I think Jordi's got a great chance [of making the NLL]," Tallevi said. "He's got a great attitude... I'm confident that he's going to put in the hard work and be able to make that step."
However, despite his high prospects of making the NLL in the future, Jones-Smith admits that making it as a pro lacrosse player is not his number one goal right now.
"My main goal right now is trying to get my marks up and try to go to law school," he said. "Lacrosse is kind of a byproduct of it. Hopefully I make it to the NLL, but my main goal is to try and go to law school and make something of that."