BLOOMINGTON – Verdell Jones took a gamble when he decided to wait until the late signing period, and it's clearly paying off.
The 6-4, 180-pound guard from Champaign (Ill.) Central H.S. had a handful of college options in the fall, but instead decided to bank on a big senior season opening some more doors for him this spring. After a senior campaign that included 17.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, that's exactly what has happened.
Jones' list of big-name suitors continues to grow. He's now looking at Indiana, Kentucky, Georgetown, Minnesota and Virginia, while Texas has also expressed some interest as of late.
"It was a gamble, and I think it's clearly working out for him," said Central H.S. Athletic Director and boys' basketball assistant coach John Woods.
Jones' decision to wait could work out for Indiana as well. In the aftermath of Kelvin Sampson's resignation and Tom Crean's hiring, the new Hoosier coach is scrambling to find some quality players to fill out the roster. He's found one in Jones, Scout.com's 30th-ranked point guard nationally.
Jones is reportedly in Bloomington today (Friday) for an unofficial visit. That was the only avenue open to Crean, since IU has zero official visits remaining due to the university's self-imposed sanctions.
"I know Coach Crean was looking at him when he was at Marquette, and obviously with the available scholarships Indiana has now, I'm sure that interest has soared quite a bit," Woods said.
So what kind of player is Jones? Besides leading his team in scoring and assists as a senior, he also guided them to a 24-8 record and a berth in the semifinals of the state tournament. He finished his career with 602 assists, ranking him sixth on the state of Illinois' all-time list.
What stands out to Woods, though, isn't so much the numbers but Jones' approach on the court.
"He is a tremendous leader on the court, and he's a kid that hates to lose," Woods said. "You have a lot of kids who like to win, but not too many that really hate to lose. That's what made him so great for us. He's just a fierce competitor."
He combined that approach with a versatile offensive game. He actually made only 32 3-pointers on the year, so much of his damage was done off the dribble, in transition and with a very good mid-range game.
"His ability to hit that 15-foot pull jump shot, he can hit that shot as well as anyone I've seen," said Woods. "He can also take it to the basket and try to dunk on you as well.
"When we hit the midway point of the season that's when he really started attacking the basket, and that makes him scary. It makes him really hard to guard."
One of the knocks on Jones has been his weight, since he's still a very lean 180 pounds. But Woods says that the Central H.S. standout will fill out now that he's likely stopped growing.
"A lot of people look at his body and think he's too skinny to play Division I basketball," Woods said. "What a lot of them don't know if he was just 5'9" when he started here four years ago.
"He's a kid that could step right in and play, but he's also a kid that if a school invests in him, it's going to pay off in huge dividends. I think he's done growing, and now he's only going to get stronger."
Gamble Pays Off for IU Target Jones
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