Decision on Deck

Jamal Jones is categorized by most recruiting outlets as a sleeper for the signing class of 2011. Not that he's taking it personally.

Such classifications only add more fuel to his motivational fire.

"That motivates me," he said. "Right now, they call me a sleeper, but I want to come out and show everybody what I'm capable of doing. I want to be known as one of the best players from Arkansas, instead of a sleeper."

Jones, a 6-foot-8, 180-pound swingman by way of Searcy, Ark., was a late-bloomer. Before his 10th grade season, he stood 6-3 and was used primarily at point guard. He's since added five inches to his frame, and his recruiting has picked up with interest from a variety of prospective colleges.

Jamal Jones

"They started calling me after this summer," Jones said. "It was kind of a tough transition. Tenth grade summer, I was all right with my ball-handling, but I wasn't that good at it because I was growing. I was still trying to catch up with my height. I got it down this past summer."

Now he holds offers from his favorites, Ole Miss and Arkansas State, and is getting looks from, among others, Portland State, SMU, Creighton and Southeast Missouri State.

He traveled to Oxford over the weekend for his final official visit, where he was extended an offer.

"It went good," Jones said of Ole Miss. "They showed me around the campus, showed me their gym. I watched them practice. I went out with the players, had a great time. Overall, it was just a great experience. I loved it."

Searcy Senior High School head coach Jimmy Summers said the 17-year-old Jones has an unlimited ceiling.

"He's kind of one of those unique players," Summers said. "He was a point guard all his life, but then he really grew up physically. He already had the ball-handling skills. He can pretty much run any position on the floor, but I think his upside is so big because he's young for his class, he's still growing and his skill-set is so good right now."

Summers said Jones has flown under the radar because of the AAU team he played for in Arkansas. The Wings, the state's elite AAU team, featured such players as four-star guard Ky Madden, four-star forward Aaron Ross and four-star forward Hunter Mickelson.

"He got overshadowed," Summers, who coached Jones in AAU, said. "He flew under the radar a little bit. But all the coaches we talk to have told us his best basketball is in front of him. The sky's the limit on what he can do if he puts his mind to it."

Jones' AAU team actually matched up with the Wings in the state AAU tournament. Jones drew the assignment of guarding Mickelson, a current Arkansas commitment.

"He did a great job on Mickelson, holding him to single digits in points. Jamal had 18, 20 points. He really moved it to another level," Summers said. "And I think the fact that Aaron Ross is in our conference, I do think that he does want to step out to the forefront right now.

"Last year, I think he was still kind of wavering back and forth on where he fit. With the recruitment he's getting now, I think his confidence is high. He's really talking to me about getting with these coaches and finding out exactly on what he needs to work on."

Jones said he will choose between Ole Miss and Arkansas State. He plans to announce his decision "in two or three days."

"They're right up there with Arkansas State," Jones said of Ole Miss. "I like Arkansas State, no matter if it's a mid-major or not. They're both kind of even right now."

Jones averaged 17 points and 9.6 rebounds a game as a junior. He also contributed 3 steals and 4.5 assists. Jones, who was most impressed with the Rebels' style of player while on his visit, projects as either a two-guard or three at the next level.

"I really like (Ole Miss') style of play," he said. "They have that dribble-drive. It's a tight style of play. That's what I'm really looking into. I love their coaching staff. They're all pretty cool coaches, and I know they're going to push me and make me better."


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