Mike Jones is tall. He has to duck to get through most doors and he has to sit in the back row at the movies. He has to buy extra long jeans and extra extra large shirts. Yes being tall can certainly be a hindrance that the rest of us who are more vertically challenged can never understand. However, Razorback coach Nolan Richardson is certainly thankful for Mike's height on a team that is gravely undersized. Fortunately for Richardson and Arkansas, Jones has much more to offer than just his frame. He has a smooth shooting touch and an aggressive scorer's mentality. He can run the court, make a tough catch, and finish strong going to the basket. Mike is also a solid shot-blocker and rebounder. Oh yah, and he's only a freshman, coming off of a huge game with a career high 15 points in the win over Florida. As I approach the 6-10 forward I realize that I will be staring directly at his chest. I also realize that compared to him I must look like an oompa loompa (without the green hair, rosy cheeks, and goofy overalls). Thankfully we get to sit down for these interviews, and I was able to talk face to face (almost) with Mike Jones, for this week's Q & A.
Nathan Striegler: When you signed here a lot of people thought that Coach Richardson was making a mistake and that you weren't good enough to be a hog. With that in mind, how good did it feel to have the type of game that you did against Florida and to receive a standing ovation when you went to the bench?
Mike Jones: It feels great. I never really paid attention to the criticism even though a lot of people told me that it was out there. I knew there was going to be criticism when I came up here just because I was the first person to come here from Parkview. And because I wasn't big enough or I wasn't strong enough. I just looked at it as something that I could work towards to make people realize that I can play ball here. So my redshirt year I just tried to work hard on the weights and gain as much weight as I could so I could come out and be effective the next year.
NS: So do you feel that the redshirt year helped you a lot?
MJ: The reshirt year helped me a lot. At first I was kinda down about it. Everybody wants to be able to play and go out there and here them call the Hogs when everybody is running out. You want to feel a part of it. I knew that I was a part of the team anyway just being a motivator and telling the team that we can do this and we can do that and then at the same time going in the weight room knowing that next season I can help even more on the court trying to get rebounds and everything else.
NS: What does it feel like when you're on the court and the crowd is just going crazy?
MJ: It feels great. Especially when you're tired and down and out. In practice you don't have that motivation. You have to motivate yourself. When you're in the game and you're tired and you don't feel like you've got anything left and they're calling the Hogs and standing up and cheering for you it gives you that extra push
NS: Is this team ready to pick up where it left off before the LSU game?
MJ: I feel so and so do the coaches. We're focusing on defense. There is no more working on offensive plays anymore. Coach changed it around so now we're just strictly defense. Everything we do comes from our defense. I think this fast style of ball is really helping us. I know it helped me out last game and it is helping a lot of other guys out too.
NS: What is your role on this team?
MJ: I feel my role is to first of all, is to help then team get rebounds, and then to get defensive stops, to try to be a defensive presence with my height and long arms, getting touches and steals. On offense I try to knock down the outside shot to pull the big guys out and I try to outrun the big guys. Coach feels like a lot of big guys are not going to be able to run with our big guys like Carl Baker, Gomez and me. If we get out and run we'll get a lot of easy baskets.
NS: You've put on a lot of weight since you got here and I know that you've had to eat a lot to do so. What was your favorite food?
MJ: Probably a baked potato. I ate a lot of baked potatoes with cheese, butter, bread, steaks. Anything like that.
(I'm getting extremely hungry at this point in the interview and Wendy's is only a few minutes away)
NS: What player(s) do you pattern your game after most?
MJ: Probably Kevin Garnett. He's a more versatile player. He can step outside and hit the shot and he's a big time inside player. Plus, he's not all that big. Someone like Tim Duncan. Guys who don't weigh 280 and they're 6-9 and they can go out there and be effective against anybody else.
NS: I know you still have a lot left to do this season, but do you, J.J. and Berry ever sit around and talk about how bright the future looks?
MJ: We see each other a lot and we think about the future because we feel like all of us bring something to the table. Berry rebounds and he's just so explosive. He can go get the ball and stick it back in. Me, with my height and outside shot and J.J. being someone who can drive and just make other people around him better. So with us and all the guys coming in I think we have a bright future.
NS: How did you develop such excellent guard skills for a player your size?
MJ: I think that came from when I was young because when was young I wasn't that big. I was tall but I wasn't that big so I couldn't really go down there and try to put post moves on other big guys so I had to learn how to do other things like shoot and dribble. My family always knew how to shoot and we would play horse in the backyard. That's how I really got my shot.
NS: I think you're supposed to play pig in Arkansas. What's your favorite horse shot?
MJ: Behind the backboard.
NS: Have you seen any movies lately?
MJ: Yah. Ali. It's a real good movie. It's long but really it's so good that you don't realize how long it is until you get out.
NS: What areas do you need to improve in right now?
MJ: Getting stronger and working on my post game. I feel like that is the weakest point of my game right now. I've got to learn to do some post moves and be able to get down on the block and get some points for my team.
NS: Remember in the LSU game when Larry made a shot and lost his shorts at the same time? I was just wondering, was Larry trying to impress the women or intimidate the tigers?
MJ: Considering that Larry has a girlfriend I don't think he was doing that to impress women. I think he was doing that just to intimidate people.