Early in his junior season, Jerome Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) has proven his existing capabilities while also showing new ways to spur his team to success.
Last week, the wing helped the Runnin’ Royals to victories over The Apprentice School and Moravian College, averaging 13.0 points and 7.3 rebounds. Apart from his individual performance, Jones paid tribute to his teammates for stepping up when it was most needed.
“The coaching staff has been preaching that we have been constantly getting better since the first game of the season, and I agree with that 100 percent,” Jones said. “Last weekend, I feel as if we made even bigger steps. On Friday, the starting unit failed to make shots for certain parts of the game, and that’s when the second unit and guys off the bench stepped up when they were needed.”
At last weekend’s Don Glick Classic, Coach Kirby Dean tried a new strategy with keeping units together. In other words, he would substitute all five players at one time.
Jones thought the strategy worked. “The starters had trouble producing and it felt good seeing the other guys stepping up and making plays – the ‘next guy up’ so to speak. They had a level of energy that we needed and fed off of to finish off the game strong.”
His coach said Jones exemplifies the selfless attitude needed for the Eastern Mennonite basketball team to be successful.
“What makes Jerome so valuable is his improved defense and improved rebounding,” Dean said. “We knew he could shoot, but this year there are games where he is our leading rebounder, which is something we desperately need with our lack of post presence. He has also gotten better at giving a pump fake and putting the ball on the floor and going to the hoop, which only helps his offensive game.”
The Runnin’ Royals have been affected by injuries early on this season, putting Jerome into a power forward position to which he is not accustomed, but he has flourished and rose to the occasion to help his teammates out in their time of need.
Although the junior is not completely new to the position, playing some towards the end of last season, it calls for him to be more of a rebounder as opposed to strictly a sharp-shooter.
“I am undersized compared to most 4’s in the ODAC,” the 6-3 Jones said. “I knew what I was going to be up against since the off-season where I worked out hard every day and ended up gaining some muscle weight to be able to block out and secure rebounds. I think it is a great role and position for me. I will do whatever it is the team needs me to do to help us win.”
Currently, with the role of being responsible for more rebounds, Jones is 10th in the ODAC with 51 rebounds in total, noting his improvement getting shots off the glass.
Adding the defensive elements to his game, Jones has taken the positional change in stride while also keeping his offensive mentality in hand and also looking for an open teammate.
“I have been called on to be a big contributor to rebounding, and I have to buy in and take my defense to another level to help us win games,” Jones said. “But the shooting is still there, and I like to get my teammates involved also.”