Bloomington – Monday was a big day for Indiana, but an even bigger day for Verdell Jones.
The Hoosiers landed one of the top available guards in the '08 class when the 6-4 ½, 180-pounder took many by surprise and announced he had picked IU over Minnesota and Kentucky. Jones gives IU Coach Tom Crean a versatile guard who averaged 17.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists as a senior at Champaign (Ill.) Central H.S.
But as big as it was for Indiana, it was even bigger for Jones. A California product who later moved to Champaign and grew up watching Illini greats such as Frank Williams, Sergio McClain and Dee Brown, Jones now gets his chance to star in the Big Ten.
"This is a great day for me," Jones said hours after making his announcement. "I never thought that I'd be playing for a prestigious university like Indiana. You grow up watching big-time games at Indiana, seeing Bob Knight and all the history there. I never thought I'd be in this situation."
Jones said that he arrived at his decision Sunday night after sitting down with his family to looks at the pros and cons of each of his finalists. While playing time and proximity were both factors in his decision, so was a common vision that he shared with Crean about the future.
"I felt like I really liked Coach Crean's enthusiasm about rebuilding the program," Jones said. "As a player, I want to do the same thing Coach Crean is looking to do. I'm looking forward to helping bring Indiana back to dominance."
He'll get his chance to help Crean and the Hoosiers in that endeavor right away. He became the third player to sign with the Hoosiers this spring, and the fifth player overall in the '08 class. But that incoming class of Jones, Matt Roth, Tom Pritchard, Nick Williams and Devon Dumes still brings IU's scholarship total to only eight, four short of the 12 allotted tenders IU has at its disposal.
Jones said he was recruited to play point guard, a role that he shined at while leading Champaign Central H.S. to a 24-8 record this past season and a spot in the state tournament semifinals.
"(Crean) sees me as a scoring point guard, someone who can score and create for others," Jones said. "He sees me as someone who can help out on the boards and be a leader as well. He also has ideas for me to become an even better player. That's important wherever you go, that your coach is trying to get you prepared for a chance at the next level."
One of Jones' points of emphasis will be to add some weight to his slender 180-pound frame, but he said he's confident once he gets into a college weight program that he'll be able to fill out his frame to prepare himself for the Big Ten.
Playing in the Big Ten is a rewarding opportunity for Jones, who didn't start getting recruited by Indiana until after Crean took over in Bloomington. His decision to not sign in the fall and wait until the spring resulted in that opportunity, and Jones is glad he decided to wait.
"I would personally recommend that to any recruit who isn't sure on where he wants to go to wait," Jones said. "Coach leave, players leave, different situations open up. By me waiting, I got Indiana."
Verdell Jones Talks About IU Decision
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