Burden of Proof

Ole Miss freshman forward Aaron Jones has a chip on his shoulder. You know, something to prove.


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He was relatively unknown when he signed with Ole Miss in the recruiting class of 2011. Void of the AAU scene, his signature brought minimal fanfare, namely because his recruitment wasn't the spectacle of, say, Jarvis Summers. Or Ladarius White. Or Johnny O'Bryant.

No, Jones was a sleeper. Now he is well into the first semester of his Ole Miss career. He's out to make the most of the opportunity.

"I'm under the radar. That's what I feel like," Jones said. "I feel like I have something to prove to the coaches and players to get me some (playing time). I want to go against the best every night. I want to show my skills."

"Aaron Jones, he didn't get a lot of hype coming out of high school because he was void of the AAU scene. This kid is going to be a terrific player. He's got a motor out of this world. Incredibly competitive. Works at it," head coach Andy Kennedy said.

The 6-foot-8, 218-pound Jones has impressed this fall. So much so, he's sure to have a role in a crowded front court come the opening of the season next Thursday in an exhibition against North Alabama.

The Rebels will host their season opener vs. Louisiana-Monroe at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 11.

"Well, my role for this team, I like to rebound and block shots. I like to play defense," Jones said.


Jones guards Demarco Cox during a team scrimmage Friday
Ben Garrett

"I don't have to score. I think I'm going to get great minutes. When I get into the game, I'm going to rebound and block shots."

Jones, who averaged 20 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and five blocks per game in his senior season at Gautier High School in Pascagoula, stepped into a front court already featuring veterans Terrance Henry, Reggie Buckner and Murphy Holloway.

However, Jones has more than held his own, and has leaned on the veterans for tips and suggestions to improve his game.

"They've been helping me out a lot," Jones said. "When we're at practice, say I'm getting some Gatorade or something. Terrance will say, ‘AJ, you need to listen, ‘cause you know you're going to be playing.' And when I'm playing Reggie one-on-one, he shows me how to guard."

It's all a part of the process, the plan. Again, Jones is aiming to silence the doubters.

Kennedy recruited Jones heavily, long before Jones opened eyes at the Deep South All-American Camp in Baton Rouge, La., in July of 2010. Jones was arguably the camp's best prospect out of 105 players.

A number of schools began showing interest, including UTEP, Memphis and Florida. Jones committed to Ole Miss.

"I'm going to be honest with you; in high school, I was a sleeper. I was lazy," Jones said. "In college, you gotta play. My game's come far. I can dribble a little bit more, shoot more and I got a post-up game now, too.

"When I get into games, I'm going to make it hard for (Coach Kennedy) to take me out. I'm trying to play with a chip on my shoulder and prove to them I belong. I'm just trying to play hard and let coach see what he likes in me."

The emergence of Jones only strengthens the front court. He provides even more depth for Kennedy, who can already call on Demarco Cox and Steadman Short from the bench behind the trio of Henry, Buckner and Holloway.

Jones, like Henry, can play away from the basket as well. Really, though, how he is ultimately used is of little concern to Jones. He just wants to play; to, with the minutes he earns, pay back Kennedy for the opportunity the sixth-year head coach has given him.

"It's a great opportunity. Big ups to AK; he gave me this opportunity to play. We can be special. That's how I feel," he said.


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