Sleeper No More

Following an official visit over the weekend, combo forward Aaron Jones opted to end his recruitment Monday, becoming the second commitment in Ole Miss' signing class of 2011. Read about it inside.

Keith McQueen has coached basketball in some capacity for 26 years, having overseen the development of numerous talented high school prospects.

But in all of his years on the bench, one player, Aaron Jones, stands out. A 6-foot-9 forward by way of Gautier High School near Pascagoula, Miss., Jones is a skilled defender and ball-handler – a multidimensional player with an ability to push the ball down the floor.

"He's the best shot-blocker I've seen in my 26 years of coaching," McQueen, head coach of Gautier for the past six seasons, said.

"He's a tremendous athlete. He's 6-9 in his socks with a 7-2 wingspan. He's a multidimensional player with a lot of different skills. Just a unique, skilled player and a tremendous defender. He's got great lateral movement. I'm just amazed he could slip under the radar."

Jones, who visited Oxford over the weekend, committed to Ole Miss Monday. He joins Ladarius White in the signing class of 2011, and is expected to sign a letter-of-intent in the early signing period in November.

"I fit in just right with their system," Jones said. "They play like a team and have a family off the court. I like that. They go hard every time. Every single time, they go hard. That's what I liked the most. I liked how Coach (Owen) Miller and Coach (Andy) Kennedy see me as an overall player. They like my game."

"Coach Kennedy really has a great vision for what the kid can become," said McQueen. "He was really impressed with the entire staff (on his visit)."

Jones had flown under the radar in recruiting circles. College coaches do most of their scouting during the AAU circuit, but Jones' only experience came in a brief stint with the Memphis Select team.

McQueen said the 17-year-old Jones surfaced over the summer at the Deep South All-American Camp, hosted by Jamie Palmer in Baton Rouge, La. Prospects across the South participate, all in an attempt to spike recruiting interest. Jones made a strong impression as arguably the camp's best prospect of 105 players, according to McQueen.

"(UTEP head coach) Tim Floyd was just all over him," McQueen said. "Loved him. Without question, he thought he was one of the top three or four players in Mississippi. He came and saw A.J. four or five times and said he had unlimited potential. I've got a great deal of respect for Coach Floyd."

Jones received a scholarship offer from Ole Miss recently, though McQueen said the school has recruited the rising senior for the better part of three years. However, in those days, he was still a raw talent growing into his body. He had to add height and weight for prospective colleges to take notice.

He did. And Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Baylor, UTEP, Memphis and Florida began to show interest.

"(Ole Miss) has been on him a long time, but they didn't have room for him," McQueen said. "But he grew three and a half inches last year and improved his jump shot more in the last year than any player I have ever seen, so they told him he had a chance. His relationship with Coach Miller is the reason he's at Ole Miss."

McQueen said Mississippi State scouted Jones on September 30. A scholarship offer was extended October 4. Jones initially planned to visit Baylor last weekend, but opted for Ole Miss instead. McQueen said Jones has canceled a previously scheduled trip to Florida for the weekend of October 30.

"Coach Larry Shyatt from Florida said he is the biggest sleeper in the country," McQueen said. "He was scheduled to visit them this month, and it was looking like they were going to offer him when he got down their for his visit.

"Coach Morefield from Baylor said he was talented and, athletic-wise, one of the top 30 to 40 players in the country. He was amazed he could slip under the radar without anybody knowing about him."

A combo forward, Jones averaged 19.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 4.0 blocks per game as a junior. Jones was also named the District 8 (5A) Player of the Year.

"I'm a hard worker," Jones said. "I push myself to get better every day. I just want to thank Ole Miss for giving me this opportunity."

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