Dream Realized

In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated, Dudley E. Dawson chats with former Searcy star and current Lee College shooting guard Jamal Jones (6-8, 190), who was very impressive this week at the national junior college tournament as Arkansas' coaches looked on.

The NCAA Tournament got underway Thursday without Arkansas for the fifth straight year much to the dismay of the school's fans.

But second-year Razorback head coach Mike Anderson saw two players at this week's National Junior College Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., that could go a long way in helping the program get back in the Big Dance next season.

One of those was New Mexico College combo guard Desmond Lee (6-4, 195), who already had an Arkansas offer going into the event and who will begin setting up visits next week.

The other was 6-8, 190-pound Baytown (Texas) Lee College shooting guard Jamal Jones, a former Searcy standout who originally signed with Ole Miss.

Jones poured in 54 points in 54 minutes of action in two games with Anderson and assistants Melvin Watkins and T.J. Cleveland looking on.

He was 13-of-26 from the field in those two games, 4-of-9 from 3-point range and 20-of-24 from the free throw line.

That performance resulted in a call and a scholarship offer Wednesday from Anderson to Jones – who averaged 17.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists this season while shooting 35 percent from 3-point range.

"Coach Anderson called me on Wednesday, just after we got back to Baytown, and said that he and the other coaches really enjoyed watching me play and that he thought I could really help next year's team," Jones said. "He said that I had an offer and he wanted me to get up to Fayetteville and take an visit."

That was music to the ears of Jones, who did not get an offer from former Razorback head coach John Pelphrey back when the player was in high school.

That was because he was a loaded 2011 recruiting class in Arkansas that included current Razorbacks Rashad Madden and Hunter Mickelson and Aaron Ross, who signed with Arkansas but matriculated to prep school instead.

Pelphrey also signed two other players that year - current Razorback B.J. Young and former Razorback DeVonta Abron, who transferred to TCU to be closer to his child.

"It makes me feel good and it really is a dream come true to get this offer from Arkansas," Jones said. "I grew up wanting to play for the Razorbacks and now I am going to be given the chance. If I end up deciding to go there, my family will get to see me play more and I really believe Arkansas has some great players coming in with bigs like Bobby Portis of Little Rock Hall and the two other guys (Moses Kingsley and Houston transfer Alandise Harris).

"I know wherever I go I want to be playing in the NCAA Tournament instead of watching it," Jones added. "I know I can help Arkansas get there."

While Jones is very High on the Hogs, it is not a slam dunk that he will end up a Razorback.

He also has offers from Texas A&M – who has been recruiting him the longest – along with Missouri, Oregon, San Diego State, West Virginia and TCU.

"Obviously I really like Arkansas and Texas A&M is up there high with me, too, because they have been around here recruiting me the whole time," Jones said. "I'll just say they are all even right now until I sit down and go over things with my coach."

Jones is getting a second chance after being dismissed from Ole Miss – along with the Rebels' leading scorer Dundrecus Nelson - for a violation of team rules before his first semester ended.

"I have changed completely and knew I had to," Jones said on Monday. "This is my last chance. My last shot. I have matured as a person and I know that I have to do the right things all the time."

Lee College head coach Roy Champagne backs that assertion up.

"He has grown so much as a person and as a player since he arrived here over a year ago," Champagne said. "I don't know if I have ever been prouder of a young man that I have coached. He could have gone anywhere he wanted to in the country to play his junior college basketball, but he chose to do so for us and he has become a grown and very mature young man – which he was not when he arrived - while doing so."

Arkansas is currently looking at having 14 players on scholarship – which is one over the NCAA limit - next season if all the current players returned and you add in Portis and Kingsley.

But there is speculation that sophomore guard BJ Young and redshirt junior forward Marshawn Powell are going to leave to play professionally somewhere next season.

"Coach Anderson really didn't say anything about who was leaving or who was staying and all that," Jones said. "He just said that he believed I could come in and add scoring that they need. He said they didn't have a player like me and they wanted to get me on the team."

Champagne, who was the AAU coach of former Arkansas great and current student development director Scotty Thurman, thinks it has a chance to be fairytale story.

"What a great story this could end up being – a guy who didn't get a chance to play for Arkansas the first time getting to come back home, realize his dream of playing for the Razorbacks and making the most of his second chance," Champagne said. "I hope it works out for him. It really would be a storybook ending."

Jamal Jones

Jamal Jones

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