Jones Ready To Do Some Heavy Lifting

Bloomington - Indiana's basketball fortunes this season will be resting with a whole bunch of newcomers, including freshman Verdell Jones. Jones talks about what he's done in the off-season to get himself ready for his first season in an IU uniform...

Bloomington – Verdell Jones' Champaign, Ill., roots gave him a first-hand look at what it was going to take to be successful at the college level.

While he spent his high school season starring at Champaign Central H.S., he spent a good portion of his summers playing against many of the University of Illinois' players. As a player with college aspirations of his own, Jones sought out advice from the older players and heard a common theme.

"That's what they'd tell me – you have to get stronger, you have to get bigger," Jones said.

Jones won't be confused with Nick Williams or Malik Story, but he's clearly made a great deal of progress in the weight room since arriving on IU's campus in the spring. Originally listed at 160 pounds as a high school senior, Jones is now up to 177 pounds and is targeting a playing weight of 180 or 185 pounds by the time the season starts.

IU Coach Tom Crean has noticed the change in Jones in the couple of months he's been on campus.

"I think if you'd asked if Verdell Jones was going to (bench press) 185 (pounds) when he got here in the summer time, it would have been a dream," Crean said. "To think he could get that up a couple times now is a distinct possibility."

While Jones admits there's still a long way to go as far as his strength training, he's been pleased with the progress he's made and said it's made a noticeable impact on his game.

"The weight has helped me when I go to the hole I can finish better," Jones said. "In high school I'd get bumped and go to the foul line. Now I can take the hit, finish, readjust my shot. It's been a big factor for me."

Jones, meanwhile figures to be a big factor for the Hoosiers this season. One of 11 newcomers on the Hoosiers' roster, Jones is expected to play point guard and be one of the primary ball handlers on a team that could have as many as four guards on the floor many times this season.

That four-guard approach will put IU at a decided disadvantage when it comes to rebounding the basketball and having much of a post presence on either end of the floor. But Jones believes that those disadvantages can be offset by some problems IU can pose to opposing teams with their multitude of fleet-footed guards.

"You can't guard what you can't catch," Jones said.

That's a different style of play than what IU fans have become accustomed to over the years, but the make-up of the Hoosiers' roster gives the coaching staff little choice but to try to turn what appears to be a significant disadvantage on paper into an edge.

"We have a lot of guards on the team, and that can be a great asset to us," Jones said. "The Big Ten has been known as a big, bang-it-out conference, and with the type of offense Coach Crean will bring and the type of players he's recruiting, it will cause a lot of match-up problems."

While Crean is hoping that the guard-oriented approach will have some success this season, he also knows that he's going to need to rely on his guards to be able to rebound the basketball and on many occasions to match up with players who have advantages in terms of height and weight.

The long hours spent in the weight room this summer isn't going to make anyone grow any taller, but it should help players like Jones be better prepared for the physical style that awaits once conference play begins.

"If I want to do anything in the Big Ten or in college period, that's what I need to do – put on weight and get stronger," Jones said.

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