Jones and I got into a conversation about the Pac-10 and then about Arizona and which players had the best pro potential. Here is some of what he had to say. It's important to note that none of what Jones says in any way represents either the NBA or the league he is associated with now.
First of all, Jones is big on athletes. He believes that an athlete can be taught the other parts of the game while those who are fundamentally strong can't just "learn" to run fast or jump high. He said that Richard Jefferson was the person he recommended his former team draft last June if Jason Richardson was already gone (which he was). As for this year on the West Coast, Jones loves Oregon's Freddie Jones (no relation), UC-Irvine's Jerry Green, USC's Sam Clancy, Fresno State's Melvin Ely and Washington's Doug Wrenn (though he says he "really shouldn't" comment on underclassmen).
From Arizona, he says that the best NBA prospect without a doubt is Luke Walton. While it sounds like he is contradicting himself because Walton is Mr. Fundamentals and not a great athlete, he also told me of his love for "versatile and complete" players. Jones says he can see Walton playing the four (power forward) in the NBA because he has the size and strength to do so against the majority of the league's four-men. He sees his passing and his ability to hit the 15-18-footers (including "his lovely baseline turnaround") as his best strengths while rebounding is also a plus. He notes that his shot has "obviously gotten better" lately and that he is surprisingly solid against quicker and more athletic players he defends against.
I asked "Aaron Jones" to give me his thoughts on potential pro prospects from Arizona and though he said he has only seen the Cats play "maybe ten or twelve games", he obviously knows what he is talking about.
Jones' list of Arizona pro potential (because he is speaking anonymously, he agreed to comment on even some of the Cats' younger players):
*Walton- "Might wind up being a first rounder after one more good year. There are a lot of people in my business who are very surprised by how well he has played this year. A lot of us-and I'll be the first to admit that I was one of them-thought he was a nice complimentary player. Quick to classify him as a "contributor" but not a star by any means. It's safe to assume that the opinion on Luke Walton now is far different than it was even three or four months ago. I know a lot of people from (the NBA) that are very high on Bill's kid."
*Channing Frye- "It looks like Lute found a real keeper in that number 45 freshman kid, Frye. He'll be a four at the next level but he can shoot and can block shots but needs to add muscle and be more aggressive rebounding the basketball to be a lottery pick in three more years. I saw him at Stanford and he made quite a few shots from outside of 15-feet."
Jason Gardner- "I wasn't very impressed with him last year at the camps and he still needs to work on some things but he is a wonderful leader and as competitive a player on the college level that I've ever seen. He needs to stay another year and prove he can make the three-point shot with consistency and improve his on-the-ball defense. I really hope that Jason doesn't make the same mistake his old teammate Michael Wright made last year by leaving early. But Jason could always come over here (Europe) and make quite a living for himself in professional basketball. Ben (Davis) and A.J. (Bramlett) are really doing very well in our* league." *=[If any of you have been following our "where are they now" features on the website, it should be obvious where "Aaron Jones" is located in Europe]
*Salim Stoudamire- "I didn't realize he was Damon's cousin until about a month ago when I was in Portland for a game. He plays a lot like Damon but he's not as quick or as explosive with the ball in his hand. He would have to learn to play the one at the next level but from what I've seen of him, he has exceptional ball handling skills. He can really shoot it and has good range. That he also plays hard on defense will only help him down the line. He could be a special college player and play himself into the first round in three more years."
Of course, this is all subject to change at anytime.