Eastern Mennonite University senior Maleke Jones (Charles Town, W.V./Washington) has proven himself consistent and confident on the basketball court, and is the Royals Athlete of the Week.
In two games last week Jones averaged 15.0 points, including 17 points and three assists in Saturday’s win over Hampden-Sydney. His layup started a key 9-0 run against H-SC in the second half, turning a three-point lead into a 54-42 cushion.
Heading into the final two weeks of the season, Jones is averaging 13.1 points per game, adding nearly four rebounds and four assists.
“When I’m playing, everything just feels good and I don’t second guess that,” Jones said. “I’ve worked hard this offseason to put up the numbers that I am putting up, and I’m just glad that it is showing. I also feel like how I play determines a lot in our games. I don’t necessarily have to be the one scoring, but if I can still set other people up and play good defense, it definitely helps the team.”
Coach Kirby Dean agrees.
“The biggest key to Maleke’s success this year has been his ability to stay healthy,” he said. “Over the last two years Maleke has been well on his way to establishing himself as one of the better point guards in the ODAC, only to be derailed by injuries. This year Maleke has stepped up in every facet of the game on the court as well as off the court; we are hopeful that he can finish these last two weeks strong and lead us into the ODAC Tournament.”
With his collegiate career winding down, Jones sees that in order to for the team to play well through the postseason, the men need to stick together.
“We need to continue to lift each other up and continue to push each other in practice,” he said. “If we do those things, the confidence in each other goes up, the chemistry goes up, and we play better. On top of that, we need to keep getting better defensively and trust each other to make the right plays on offense and I think we will be fine.”
A senior, the point guard has some final advice to underclassmen, and said that it is important to “make sure the team stays together. Every team goes through losing streaks, but those streaks will show you how strong the team really is.”
Having suffered season-ending injuries in previous seasons at EMU, he added, “Play every game like it’s your last — because it just might be.”
Jones is not the only member of the men’s team closing his time at Eastern Mennonite: so is Coach Dean. Jones said he and his teammates sensed their coach’s resignation, but were still shocked to hear the news that this would be his final season.
“I personally thought it was going to be after next year,” said Jones, “so hearing him say this was his last year just shocked us and it felt weird to think about EMU as a whole without Kirby being here. I won’t be here next year to play obviously, but I feel like basketball here won’t feel the same without him.”
Jones is a psychology major with a pre-law minor. After graduation, he hopes to attend graduate school to become a criminologist.
“Playing basketball for EMU has been nothing short of amazing,” he said. “It has been a rough journey but it has taught me a lot about myself and other people. At the end of the day, I definitely feel I made the right choice to play at EMU for my college experience. I think this experience has shaped me into an even harder working person, an even more patient person that knows how to bounce back from adversity.”