What A Player -- Peekskill's Mookie Jones

Scout.com's Brian Towey of the High School New York/New Jersey website had a chance to talk to Peekskill head coach Lou Panzanaro ...

In addition to claiming MVP honors in helping lead his Long Island/Westchester team to a 103-102 win over New York City at the Metro Classic at Christ the King High School on Sunday night, Peekskill's Mookie Jones further solidified his standing as one of New York state's best.

The reedy 6-foot-5 1/2 small forward out of the class of 2008 gave the City crew problems with his perimeter stroke, to the tune of 19 points, but also proved equally capable in transition.

Jones, who helped lead Peekskill and Coach Lou Panzanaro to a Class A State Federation championship last winter as a sophomore, may not have quite the name as some others further downstate, but without question, his star is rising.

"Every summer he's added something to his game," said Panzanaro, who counts Peekskill alums Elton Brand and Hilton Armstrong as former players in the NBA. "When he first came up, as an eighth grader, he didn't really handle the ball. He was more of a rebounder. He's really improved and developed his game. This summer he worked on attacking the basket. I think his overall understanding of the game of basketball has improved."

A rangy wing, Mookie is terrifically long and great in transition, an exciting run-and-jump athlete. He established himself as a shooting threat as an underclassman, and has gradually expanded his range. From 16 feet on out, he is very capable (lethal along the baselines). In Sunday's all-star game, he opened by darting left and sinking a 15-footer off the bounce, later knocking down threes from both corners off the catch.

According to Panzanaro, he is working on improving his dribble penetration, so as to not become too reliant on his jumper. He still has to work on something of an in-between game, and continue to work on his ballhandling. He has a bit of a slight frame, and has to keep getting stronger.

Jones thrives in transition, getting out and running the floor for easy baskets. He's explosive on the break. He's a player who can impact a game at both ends of the floor.

For a player blessed with such physical gifts, one of the things that pleases Panzanaro most is that he hasn't become complacent.

"His work ethic is his biggest strength," said Panzanaro of Jones, who averaged 14.9 points, eight rebounds, three blocks, and three assists as a sophomore. "Sometimes I almost have to slow him down. He really works hard. He's very coachable. He's becoming a good offensive player. His unselfishness (is a big strength)."

Jones did not attend any of the big-name camps this summer, but programs that recruit the New York area are already familiar with him through his exploits with Peekskill and the Westchester Hawks.

"We've had quite a few coaches come in," said Panzanaro. "Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Miami, St. John's, Villanova, Louisville .. I'm sure I'm leaving somebody out."

That list should continue to expand. And Jones should continue to improve. He has an outstanding teacher and mentor in Coach Panzanaro, who was inducted into the state's Basketball Hall of Fame this year and has amassed over 400 wins at Peekskill in his 23-year coaching career.

"He has quite a bit of potential," said Panzanaro. "I'm looking forward to coaching him over the next two seasons."

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