While visiting his family in Wynne last weekend, former Searcy basketball star Jamal Jones got plenty of free advice on where he should play his college basketball and there was a definite consensus.
That would be Arkansas, where the 6-8, 190-pound shooting guard prospect from Baytown (Texas) Lee College is schedule to take his official visit beginning on Thursday.
"They would love for me to come to Arkansas, but they are going to let me make my own decision and make sure it is the right place for me," Jones said. "But we all know how big a deal it would be to play in my home state and help be a part of returning the Razorbacks to the national stage. It really would be a special feeling to be a part of that and do it in front of my family and friends."
Razorback head coach Mike Anderson has made it clear how to Jones how he is Arkansas' top priority in the spring signing period, which runs from April 17-May 15.
The Razorbacks have one scholarship to add to a class that includes a pair of top 50 national players in 6-10 forward Bobby Portis of Little Rock Hall and 6-10 Nigerian-born center Moses Kingsley of Huntington (WV) Prep.
"He has really let me know that I am their number one guy and how much of an impact he thinks I could have on next season's team," Jones said. "He has let me know that my versatility is a big key for them next season. He said I could help them at the one, two and three and even defensively at the four because of my length. He thinks I am a perfect fit for what they do and it feels great to be wanted so much."
Jones, who has NBA 3-point range, averaged 18 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 35 percent from the beyond the arc and leading Lee (24-11) to the national junior college tournament last month in Hutchinson, Kan.
He scored 54 points in 54 minutes of action in his two games of action and was the only player whose team didn't make a deep run that named to the all-tournament team.
That included shooting 15-of-30 from the field, 4-of-10 from 3-point range and and 20-of-24 from the free throw line.
"My overall game has improved so much since I was in high school when I was able to score just because I was taller than everybody and could jump over them," Jones said. "I am a better ballhandler, a better shooter and have a better knowledge of the game. Plus I have grown a couple of inches."
Jones admits to being a big fan of Mike Anderson and thinks he fits perfectly into Anderson's system.
"I think he is a great coach and a great man and is the right guy to get Arkansas back where it belongs," Jones said. "They got better this year and I know he is going to lead them back to the top."
Jones was a standout for Searcy during a loaded class of 2011 inside the state, but was not offered by former Razorback head coach John Pelphrey – who signed a class of Arkansas stars Rashad Madden, Hunter Mickelson, Aaron Ross as well as out-of-starters B.J. Young and DeVonta Abron.
"It's just how it worked out," Jones said. "I think I will be a better player because of everything that I went through."
Jones ended up signing with Ole Miss, but was dismissed from the team along with leading scorer Dundrecus Nelson due to off the court issues.
"I wasn't very mature and made some bad decisions, but that is all behind me now," Jones said. "I have grown up as a man while at junior college and know I can have any more slip ups. No more mistakes. I have to do the right things all the time and that's what I am going to do."
While it would seem that Jones would be a lock for Arkansas, he says that he will most likely take at least a couple of other visits.
He has a final five of Arkansas, Texas A&M, San Diego State, Oregon and TCU and while he doesn't have any other visits schedule of yet, he is planning to take one or two more after learning from past experience.
"The thing I did last time with Ole Miss was just go one place and say 'this is it, it is where I need to be' without taking any more visits," Jones said. "This time I am going to come back and at least think about it and probably take at least one or two visits."
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