Basketball's Jones

Aaron Jones is back and better than ever. On Jan. 29, he was at his worst. The Rebels lost the game but Jones lost his season.

Kentucky was in town and the Ole Miss Rebels were poised for the big upset. But a loss coupled with a season-ending knee injury for one of the Rebels' key components was a big blow.

"(Nerlens) Noel had just got a blocked shot on Murphy (Holloway)," said the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Jones, of Gautier, Miss. "I was running back on ‘D' trying to steal the ball. I had stepped on the back of Archie (Goodwin's) foot, and Noel had pushed me in the back a little bit and my knee buckled and it just gave out."

And his life changed, if not forever, then for months.

"It was at midcourt. I collapsed to the ground and was screaming for several seconds," Jones said. "They wanted me to roll over, but my knee was hurting me bad and I couldn't. They put me on my feet and they took me to the locker room. You know your body. I knew something was wrong, but I didn't want to think that at the time. I had walked back to the locker room. When I put weight on it and I collapsed, I said ‘It's over with.' I knew I was done."

And his recovery began. Well, not actually at that moment. But a few days later there was major surgery. And then the rehab. Oh, that difficult rehab.

But Jones said he has used the situation as a positive, as hard as that is for some to believe.

"I would say four months into it I was better," he said. "It's made me a better person and a basketball player."

And now, it's almost an afterthought.

Aaron Jones
Bruce Newman

"I warm up and I don't worry about it," he said. "If it's going to happen again, it's going to happen again. I don't worry about that. My knee is strong, so I knew I shouldn't worry about it. I was hesitating at first, but now it's to a point like ‘I want to play ball.' So I can't hesitate on my knee."

Jones is ready. He said the team is ready, too, to get back to its winning and championship ways of last year. The Rebels won the Southeastern Conference Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

Jones wants more and this time, of course, to be a greater part of it.

"It feels great to be back on the court. But I've got a chip on my shoulder," he said. "We won the SEC last year, but even though I helped early, I didn't feel like I helped when they won it. So I've got a big chip on my shoulder to help do that again this year."

He likes this team, even though some major losses like Reginald Buckner, Murphy Holloway, and Nick Williams will be noticed.

"We've got to pick up the missing pieces from Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner," Jones said. "We've got young talent with the freshmen coming in. Sebastien Saiz and Dwight Coleby. And me and Demarco Cox picking up the pieces so we can have some more rebounds and pick up the scoring load."

Jones said he's worked this summer and fall, after he was able to get back out on a court, to improve all aspects of his game. But so has everyone.

"I've improved my jump shooting," he said. "Demarco has an inside presence. Sebastian has got a good skill set with his outside shooting and his inside touch. Coleby has an outside shot, so we're picking up the missing pieces."

He likes the new guys and their energy – Saiz, Coleby, Janari Joesaar, and Jerron Martin.

"They've got a great motor. They'll go all day. They are getting me better because they keep coming at me. And Demarco too. They're making us work harder than we usually have to work."

And there are the returnees from the title team.

"Derrick (Millinghaus) had a great freshman year. He's a sophomore now, and he knows the missing pieces we need to do from last year so he's picking up from that. Martavious Newby, he a dog. He's gonna play hard every play.

"Marshall (Henderson), everybody thinks he's crazy but he's calmed down though. He's looking to pass more, but he's looking to take his shots. But he makes a lot of shots so he can take how many shots he wants. We've got Jarvis Summers. I call him 'Smooth.' He's our point guard. A junior. He's going to run the team this year. And Ladarius White - 'Snoop.' I feel like he's our franchise player. He's that guy. That's what I feel like."

Jones talks with an enthusiasm he hasn't had before. It's because now he's back and ready to play – and to stay well. And he wants the team to be able to gain the respect it should have coming off last season heading into a new one.

"They're still not showing us any respect," he said of the preseason prognosticators. "That just adds on to the fire. We know we're better than that. We've just got to prove it to the world."

OM Spirit Top Stories