2008's Jones Working On Body, Game

Scout.com is heading to the Marshall County Hoopfest this weekend. On the opening night, junior Verdell Jones gets to lace them up against Derrick Rose as his maturation process continues.

Verdell Jones is one of the top juniors in the state of Illinois. In addition to being a very good player, he's a kid with a lot of room to grow and improve. Ultimately, how much improvement he makes over the course of the next year and a half will determine how high up the food chain Jones finds himself.

See, with Jones, a major part of his growth is well, growth. He needs to get bigger and stronger. One look at him and you know he's talented, rail thin and laced with potential. The basketball aspect is going to come much easier for him than the physical traits.

"The bottom line is that I've always told him is this thing is a marathon and not a sprint," Verdell Jones, Sr., told Scout.com. "There has to be consistent work done. We recognize that rest is just as important but we tell him he's got to be the best he can be. We're honest with him about where he is. I might be his worst critic but it's from a good standpoint so he can see things realistically."

"Coach Wainright said it best: if you were a chicken dinner I'd send it back because you need more meat. But he understands his game; people just want to see you get stronger." -- Verdell Jones, Sr.
Realistically, programs are interested but can't quite pull the trigger; at least not all the interested parties. At present, the Class of 2008 point guard crew is not deep. This position tends to deepen as the season progresses. Realistically, Jones is fighting in that second tier of points hoping to impress the recruiters with his game and his body in equal parts.

"Skill wise he might be as good as anyone out there but there's more to it than just skill," his father said. "There's strength and endurance. He's got to have the ability to take that pounding. As he continues to mature and get stronger guys won't be able to hand check him. His speed has improved; he's a late bloomer."

Jones father knows all about rail-thin point guards. He coached one of the recent best, Shaun Livingston. In fact, Verdell Jr., grew up taking AAU trips with dad and Livingston. He's seen first hand that you don't have to look like Chauncey Billups to be thought of as a good player.

"Like a duck to water, he's always been around the game," Jones said. "He's had some great influences like Frank Williams and different guys from Peoria."

It's impossible not to note Jones' body when you see him. Sometimes getting caught up in what he's not lends to overlooking what he is: a player who can be a point, finds the bottom of the net and isn't afraid to lay it on the line.

"I have to be careful so that I don't become so pre-occupied that I don't see the positives in his game too," his father said.

Who's interested? Lots of schools. Who's offered? A few. Southern Illinois, Tennessee, Xavier and DePaul are very serious. Illinois, Kansas, Louisville, Florida and Georgia Tech check on him regularly and they have plenty of company. Each is in the process of building a detailed file on him, checking out his game and his body and likely making sure he's getting at least 3 square meals a day!

"He's got to get stronger. If I had a dime for every time I heard that from a college coach … We're taking the proper steps to address that. He's eating good kinds of food and stuff that is going to put on the mass. When God's ready it'll happen.

"To a lot of programs, he'll be the one that got away. That's the way we look at it."

Jones faces a stern test Friday night. While there's no expectation to toe the line with Derrick Rose head-to-head, it's a great test for a youngster making his way and cataloging his progress.

See, Jones doesn't have to be better than Rose; he just has to be better than he was yesterday. The two guards face each other Friday night in the final evening game at the Marshall Co. Hoopfest.

Marshall County Hoopfest Schedule. Scout.com will cover this event beginning Friday.

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