Friendship aids Riordan's Jones

As youngsters, Rob Jones and Decensae White used to play basketball together at the Pacifica Boys and Girls Club.

As youngsters, Rob Jones and Decensae White used to play basketball together at the Pacifica Boys and Girls Club.

Jones was too young to go on field trips to places like Marine World and Great America, but White - older by one year - used to sneak Jones along and watch out for him.

The friendship continued even when White enrolled at San Mateo Serra High School and Jones matriculated a year later at rival San Francisco Archbishop Riordan.

Last year White led Serra to the Central Coast Section Division I title and received a full ride to play for coach Bobby Knight at Texas Tech. Meantime, Jones paced Riordan to the CCS D3 title, scoring 25 points and taking 20 rebounds as the Crusaders defeated Seaside 72-53 in the title game.

The White-Jones friendship endured as White, prior to leaving for Texas Tech, invited Jones to work out with him under the tutelage of Brad Duggan. Duggan is the former City College of San Francisco coach who is a close friend of Knight.

"We worked out with Brad Duggan over the summer and it helped my perimeter game," said Jones, who averages 16.6 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Crusaders. "I have more of an outside presence and better ballhandling skills now."

That will be important for the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Jones, a football/basketball star in high school who has committed to the University of San Diego, where he will play basketball.

"Rob is our team captain and a three-year starter," Riordan coach Rich Forslund said. "He's averaging a double-double and he's a good student. He's been a big part of our success."

The Crusaders have been a smashing success so far, winning their first 11 games without a loss, heading into tonight's West Catholic Athletic League opener at San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep.

It's a big week for Riordan, which will also play host to defending league champion San Jose Archbishop Mitty at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in a heavily anticipated WCAL game.

"That's a big game for us," Forslund said. "But first we have a big game with Sacred Heart."

Jones credits an array of people for his success, including his AAU coach Rob Jones (no relation), Forslund and Duggan.

"The basketball program at Riordan has really helped me," the Riordan star said. "Coach Forslund has changed the way I think about basketball, getting me to eat, think and breathe the game."

As a tight end in football, Jones helped the Crusaders - who hadn't won a league game since 2003 - upset San Jose Valley Christian and San Mateo Serra in WCAL play this year. He was a first-team All-WCAL selection who caught 33 passes for 499 yards and seven touchdowns.

He also played defense, averaging 5.3 tackles per game.

Described by some as a prep version of Charles Barkley, Jones chose San Diego because he related well to Toreros coach Brad Holland.

"Brad Holland was a star at UCLA and in high school he played a couple of sports," said Jim Jones, Rob's father. "Rob and Brad talked about that and there was a connection there. I think that's why he chose San Diego."

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