Curtis Jones broke onto the scene early, back in 2013 at events such as the HoopGroup Future All-American camp. He then impressed as a sophomore playing for loaded Fairfax (Va.) Paul VI, holding his own statistically despite being surrounded by older and also very talented prospects.
He entered the 2014 travel season with Team Loaded on the Adidas circuit and performed well at venues such as the Indianapolis event. By that summer he claimed offers from Virginia Tech, Virginia, NC State, VCU, West Virginia, Maryland and others, with schools such as Indiana also seeking to enter the mix.
He competed for Huntington (W.Va.) Prep as a junior and once again proved he can be successful alongside other high-major prospects. Clearly, that’s one facet of his prep experience that should accelerate his learning curve in college.
Jones switched to Boo Williams and the EYBL circuit for the 2015 travel season, joining guards such as Matt Coleman and Deshawn Corprew. While Boo’s squad struggled uncharacteristically throughout the spring and early summer, Jones did compile impressive numbers and continue to prove he can excel versus national competition.
Indiana made a strong move during the summer and became one of four finalists, along with Georgetown, Oklahoma State and California. But the Hoosiers ultimately carried the day and are thrilled to bring in a scorer of Jones’ caliber for the 2016-17 season.
Jones is very capable perimeter scorer. I describe him as a scorer rather than a shooter, because he’s less of a spot-up player than he is someone who shoots in rhythm. He likes the in-between areas, is comfortable pulling up off the dribble and doesn’t have to have perfect balance to knock down a shot.
He does possess ample three-point range, mind you, but he’s more balanced than the average designated shooter. Jones tallied 16 points per game for Boo Williams, including a respectable 35 percent from long-range. He shot more threes relative to twos than he has at times in the past, but even so most of his shots took place inside the line.
In addition to his scoring, Jones is a capable handler and passer for a wing and might even be able to slide over and play a backup point guard role, as needed. Defensively, he’s quick enough to defend many point guards and sufficiently tall at 6-2 to match up with most college off-guards as well.
Moreover, Jones is the epitome of battle tested. He has played on two apparel circuits, competed at tough public high schools and private academies, succeeded at illustrious individual events such as the NBPA Top 100 Camp and generally never backs down from a challenge. The fact that he hasn’t sat out to “protect his reputation” is a positive at a time when too many young players are content to do exactly that.
Getting stronger and becoming more physical will be key. Jones is a very good jump shooter on the move, and that’s great for IU, but he shot only 37 free throws in 17 games with Boo this past year. He’s a good athlete and as he gets stronger hopefully will be more aggressive going all the way to the rim.
Meanwhile, like most young rhythm scorers his shot selection can become poor if he gets frustrated. Embracing the difference between a good and bad shot and playing through the cold spells will be critical — along with adding strength — to garnering significant early playing time in Bloomington.
Jones may not dazzle as a freshman because he’ll likely need time to acclimate to the speed and physicality of the Big Ten, but the fit is superlative for the longer term.
Indiana won 20 games last season partially on the basis of its long-range and overall offensive proficiency, as the Hoosiers shot over 40 percent on threes and finished No. 6 in the nation in that category. From Tom Crean’s perspective, why tinker with something that already works?
The Hoosiers certainly do seek to get stronger on defense, of course, but offensively the program has established a workable identity and one that could become even more beneficial if officiating truly does change with respect to off-the-ball contact. Court spacing-oriented offense can become lethal if shooters are allowed to roam freely and find seams to unleash jump shots.
Jones projects as an outstanding, multi-year contributor either way, and he becomes yet another key performer from the Mid-Atlantic to head to Bloomington.