When the fall semester starts Monday at USF, Dominique Jones officially closes the book on a busier-than-usual summer. In between classes and a vigorous workout schedule, the Bulls' returning scoring and rebound leader squeezed in tryouts for an elite national team and traveled to tutor rising young basketball stars from around the world.
Rather than talk at length about those individual experiences, however, Jones almost brushes aside the chance to self promote. USF's unassuming star has other things on his mind.
"I'm just thankful I made it this far," he said. "They were good experiences and more motivation for me to keep going."
In mid June, Jones was one of 16 collegiate stars invited to audition for the U.S. Men's Junior National Team in Colorado Springs, Colo. Although he wasn't one of the final 12 selected by Wisconsin Head Cach Bo Ryan for the World University Games roster, Jones gained valuable experience that he plans to take into his junior season with the Bulls.
"I met some real incredible people and got to play with some of the best players in the country," Jones said of the three-day tryout. "I had a bad first day and even though I played good on the second and third days, I think that had a lot to do with me not making the team. I learned I always have to go hard from day one."
Guards Evan Turner (Ohio State), James Anderson (Oklahoma State), Corey Fisher (Villanova) and Talor Battle (Penn State) were ultimately selected, and the team played to a disappointing third-place finish after a semi-final loss to Russia in the tournament at Serbia. Jones said his critique from the USA coaching staff focused on his need to improve as a ball handler.
"I know Dominique was disappointed not making the team, but it was an experience he was happy to have," USF head coach Stan Heath said. "Playing with guys of that caliber and for great coaches are things that are going to help him mature and become more of a leader as we prepare for the upcoming season.
"It was a privilege for a small-town guy from Lake Wales to be able to experience that – but an earned privilege."
Jones' second trip took him to Dallas, Texas during the first week of August to serve as a counselor at the Adidas Basketball Experience. It was the second straight summer that Jones has represented USF at the camp sponsored by the Bulls' shoe outfitter. The event brings together some of the top under-18 players from around the world for instruction and competition.
Jones and 24 other college stars, current NBA players and coaches participated.
"It was a real different role for me because I'm still a student of the game. I just tried to show them things that work for me and wanted to make sure I taught them the right way," said Jones, who worked with youngsters from Korea and Africa. "The foreign players play a lot of different styles, but the U.S. still has the most effective style."
Despite the opportunities in Colorado and Texas, however, Jones seems more fired up about a summer experience considerably closer to home. In late June, much of the 2009-10 Bulls roster was on campus for classes and informal workouts.
"There's just a different attitude. Everybody feels it. I'm real excited. I think we have a NCAA Tournament team. I'm not saying we're definitely gonna get there this time, but we're getting better every year," Jones said.
"He's excited because he can see a front line, which is something we haven't had here in the past," Heath added. "Gus Gilchrist has gotten better and thicker and knows he can be a force inside. And our JUCO transfer, Jarrid Famous, has a chance to be really special. It's going to make a guard excited when he knows there are some big guys in there who'll do the dirty work and help out."
USF begins practice for the 2009-10 season on Oct. 17, and opens Nov. 13 at SMU.
Dominique Jones: Busier-Than-Usual Summer
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