There will be plenty of new faces on SMU's basketball team this year.
But Jalen Jones is a player every Mustang fan should recognize. As a sophomore, Jones led the team with 14.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Now a savvy veteran, Jones has taken more of a leadership role and hopes to take his game to new heights.
"I'm very excited about the season. We're stepping into the American Athletic Conference, which is going to be more competitive than Conference USA," Jones said. "We're going to be on a bigger stage so that's really exciting. Everybody is pushing hard, and I think we have a chance to do something great.
"I'm just trying to help in any way I can. Me being an upperclassman, I'm just trying to help get the younger guys up to speed. I want to lead by example by stepping my game up and playing at a higher level."
One teammate really benefitting from Jones' leadership is freshman McDonald's All-American Keith Frazier.
Jones and Frazier won state championships at Dallas Kimball -though they weren't on the team at the same time- and played together on the AAU circuit as a part of Dallas Showtyme.
"I've definitely taken Keith under my wing. We're both from the same high school and the same area so we can really relate," Jones said. "Any time he needs me, I'm here to help him with advice. It's a tough transition from high school to college, but he's doing pretty good so far."
Frazier is one of eight new members of the team expected to make an immediate contribution. Jones, who played 32.4 minutes per game last year, is happy he'll finally get a few breathers and is confident in the depth this team has.
"It's great to have all these new guys. Having all these new acquisitions is going to do nothing but help us win more games," he said. "They all push each other in practice, and they've been pushing me as well. We can really be a scary team if we all come together."
A Dallas native, Jones takes pride in being part of the rebuilding of the SMU basketball program.
When he first arrived on the Hilltop, Jones never expected to be playing for a legend in Larry Brown in a conference with national powers such as Louisville and Connecticut. It's an opportunity he relishes, and he hopes to make the most of it over the next two seasons.
"If we step it up and take it up to a different notch, it could be great for Dallas," he said. "We already have all the pro teams, but we could take the city to a different stage if SMU starts winning and makes the tournament, and we can definitely do that this year.
"It's been great playing for Coach Brown. He's really emphasizing defense and playing hard. He demands the most of us everyday at practice. Boy, does he love practice. So we're working hard, and we're going to be ready."
Getting to know Jalen Jones
Hoops Feature: Jalen Jones
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