"I've narrowed my schools down to Kentucky, UConn, Providence, Clemson, Miami and Marquette," Jones said after scoring five points and grabbing nine rebounds on Saturday night in the Tigers' 69-67 loss to Genesis One Prep at the 2006 National Prep School Invitational. "That's basically it right there -- I don't see anyone else coming in and taking their spots. Right now, everyone is even."
While the picture is rounding into shape, don't expect a quick trigger from Jones. He said he's never taken a standardized test (like the ACT or SAT), and that precludes him from taking any official recruiting trips.
"I have to take my test this spring, so after I take it, I will worry about scheduling visits," he noted.
Smith attended Tilden H.S. in Brooklyn a few years back, but he was essentially an unknown commodity there due to academic question marks. He was slated to begin the 2004-2005 school year at Southern Maryland Christian Academy, but that school folded its basketball program last fall, leaving Jones in limbo.
He wound up enrolling at Philadelphia (PA) Lutheran Academy, where he had a relatively undistinguished senior campaign on a team loaded with Division I prospects. His height and meaty frame made Jones intriguing to scouts and college coaches, although he never seemed able to put it all together.
After playing out the string last spring and summer with a number of travel teams, Jones opted to enroll at Laurinburg for a postgraduate campaign. The move has paid handsome dividends.
"I just had to transform everything," Jones admitted. "When I was at Lutheran, it was a good situation, but not a great situation."
"Now I am at Laurinburg, where it's a great situation," he added. "I am still working on improving my post moves and conditioning."
According to Laurinburg Head Coach Billy Reid, it's the latter which has done the most to boost Jones' basketball fortunes.
"Phil is a great kid and he's really gotten in good shape," Reid said. "I think the better in shape he gets, the better he gets as a player."
"He's really helped us a lot this year and he's helped himself by bearing down and doing what he's supposed to do," he concluded.
A year and a half ago, Jones was just a big kid with a husky frame and potential. Now he's the center of an intense recruiting battle between a number of the nation's elite programs, including Kentucky.
"I like Kentucky a lot," he said. "They came down to Laurinburg to see me practice twice, and I've spoken to Tubby Smith on the phone a few times. It seems like a good situation."
With his burgeoning recruiting options, it would be hard for Jones to go wrong.
"He's a good kid and things should work out well for him," Reid predicted.