Spencer Jones serves local community through B.I.G Homie Project

Fifth-year men’s basketball player Spencer Jones has made an impact on the court during his time on the Farm. The 6-foot-7 forward has made the most 3-point shots in Stanford history and averaged double-figure points during the last three seasons. But locally, Jones will be remembered most for his community service off the court.

For several years, Jones has made an impact with youth from marginalized backgrounds through the B.I.G Homie Project, a nonprofit offering East Palo Alto youth mentorship and opportunity. Every winter, the B.I.G Homie Project partners with Stanford basketball players to shop with kids for Christmas gifts. Instead of putting minimal effort into the experience, B.I.G Homie Project Founder and CEO Jacqueline Diep told the Daily that Jones was dedicated from the start. 

“I actually remember him from the toy drive that we did. At the end of the day, he could have just gone with the flow and done the bare minimum,” Diep said. “However, he was one out of a lot of players who was engaged and really connected with the student that he was with. [That student] is gonna remember that for the rest of his life and be inspired to do more because of that experience,” 

Jones has been long outspoken about the importance of athletes’ mental health and the pressures of playing professionally. Diep, inspired by Jones’ advocacy, invited him to Ravenswood Middle School to speak to students about mental health. 

“People from low-income backgrounds are not  focused much on mental health because everybody’s just struggling to make ends meet,” Jones said.  “A lot of these kids think that these elite institutions are out of reach. So, if there’s some way to bridge that and to get someone affiliated with Stanford to open their eyes to [the possibilities], it gets them motivated to put effort into school,” Jones said. 

His volunteering and advocacy with Diep opened other opportunities for Jones to get involved in the community, including spending his Saturdays coaching basketball with Remi Sobomehin, founder and CEO of Ambition Angels, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit helping underserved youth thrive in college and beyond. 

“You can’t be what you don’t see. Any time a person of color comes back to a community of color, it shows folks it’s possible [to succeed in life],” Sobomehin said. “Spencer’s message is not just about the hard work it takes to be a collegiate athlete, but what it takes to be a student at a school like Stanford.” 

Jones emphasis on education is also evident with his opinions on how changes in collegiate sports are modifying the priorities of college athletes.

Since 2021, when the NCAA implemented its current NIL policy allowing student-athletes to profit from their personal brands, Jones has advocated for prioritizing educational pursuits despite tempting NIL income opportunities. 

“One of the negatives [of NIL] is that it strays kids away from higher education, especially if they can’t really afford [college]. Now, you can make money in other places. How are you going to tell a kid who has been on some sort of financial strain for most of their childhood to give so much money to a college?” Jones asked. “Having athletes from Stanford being engaged with [disadvantaged youth] and teaching them the value of [Stanford] and building human capital rather than just going for the gold is something that needs to be emphasized these days.” 

As a woman of color and former foster youth, Diep said she especially values Jones’ commitment to helping underserved youth. 

 “Stanford athletes have been a great partner and are always willing to come into the community and show their face,” Diep said.  If you look at the data, there’s not that many minorities at Stanford who are black and brown folks. So, to me, it’s really important to show kids ‘You can be just like them.’” Diep said. 

A significant contributor to Jones’ success in his community service efforts has been his genuine desire to give back. He believes volunteering has brought him meaningful relationships and genuine connections.

“I feel like the older you get, there’s a little bit of inauthenticity in your daily interactions. Especially looking to pursue professional sports, you always have to worry about what someone’s trying to get from the [other] or for their network or business,” Jones said “People can be genuine, but there’s always ‘This person is talking [to me] because they want something.’ Volunteering wipes all that away. It’s a pure kind of interaction,” Jones said.

Having entered the NBA draft, Jones hopes to invest a significant part of his professional life in generating his own nonprofit, and he wants to develop longstanding and sustainable service efforts. 

“I want to see where these kids end up and what I could’ve done better before I start my own thing,” Jones said “I want to do something with long term value. I just need to figure out how to do that with professional basketball,” Jones said.