"He's gotten into pretty good shape and lost 15 to 20 pounds," explained Laurinburg Head Coach Billy Reid. "He's playing a little harder, and I get on him and ride him in practice about that."
"He's playing pretty good now," Reid continued. "He's taking responsibility now -- he's always been just a big guy who's around, and now I've given him some sort of purpose for playing."
Phil Jones spent part of last year at Lutheran Christian Academy in Philadelphia after starting off the school year at Southern Maryland Christian. He then set some sort of unofficial record by playing with a plethora of different travel clubs last spring and summer, and rarely did he show the intensity or ability needed for the high Division I level.
But his 12 point, six rebound effort last week in the Tigers' 80-68 victory over St. Thomas More, coupled with the dearth of available big men in the Class of 2006, may have changed all that.
"He hasn't taken any visits yet because he hasn't taken the SAT," Reid said. "He will be taking that next month, and then he'll be ready to take some trips."
Like most of the players at Laurinburg, Jones will have to clear some academic hurdles before worrying about what college to attend.
"We've got him pretty tied in and serious about school," said Reid, who replaced Chris Chaney (now at the Patterson School) this fall. "That's one of the big things that we are trying to push now at Laurinburg."
"Last year, they had 40 games, and if you have 40 games, that's probably 80 missed days of school," he continued. "This year, we have 23 or 24 games, guys are serious -- it has to be that way."
For Jones, getting serious is a case of better late than never.