Jones Helps Key Hopewell's Success
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 16, 2014, 15:40
David Breidenbach/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
HOPEWELL — Prior to the season's opening game, opposing coaches knew they had to prepare for the Blue Devils' full-court pressure defense, the shooting ability of Daniel Saunders, the physicality of Tabyus Taylor and the length of both Malik Monds and Darrell Taylor.
Yet, through Hopewell's first 15 games, opponents have discovered a new weapon donning the Blue, White and Gold.
Deonte Jones entered the season as a reserve off the bench and was able to supply instant offense for a team which struggled to score during its' first three games — averaging just 50 points per contest during the span.
However, as the team continued to struggle and lineups became reshuffled, Jones' play earned him a spot in the starting lineup where he's steadily improved into a reliable scoring option.
Even after scoring just 5 points in a loss to Thomas Dale Wednesday night, Jones has eclipsed the double-digit scoring mark in five of his last six games, impressing Hopewell head coach Robbie St. John.
"He has some physical tools which really held him. He's long, he's athletic and he's aggressive," St. John said of Jones. "He has confidence. There's not many kids who would take the 3-pointer he took on the baseline against Matoaca."
The shot St. John is referring to came with 1:02 remaining in a game Hopewell led 57-54. Jones never hesitated as he released a corner 3-pointer which went right through the hoop and gave the Blue Devils a lead which seemed to clinch the game.
While Hopewell would eventually lose the contest, Jones' shot is the epitome of the type of player he currently is and will be. The sophomore has a veteran presence on the court and rarely makes mistakes as evidenced by his 23 turnovers committed all season.
The 6-foot-2 forward said he simply tries to execute plays in order to help his team win games.
"I'm just trying to help us win anyway I can," Jones said after his team's loss to Thomas Dale. "And tonight, I didn't produce the way I can."
While Jones was clearly disappointed in his performance, it's another indication of the character he has. For Hopewell to have success, he knows he needs to produce to take the pressure off of Saunders who constantly sees double-teams as the team's leading scorer at 15.3 points per game.
And even though Jones had an off-night on the court, what has been learned about the sophomore through the course of the season is he will bounce-back. It's a rare trait for a player to shake off a bad shot or game and remain confident, especially for a player who was on the junior varsity team just last season.
Yet, it's one of the areas where St. John sees Jones excel in.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
"I feel like he has a short-term memory where if he misses one bad, he can still connect on the next," St. John explained. "There's always a big jump from J.V. to Varsity. There's a lot more freedom when you are one of the best at that level ... just watching him battle through adversity has been an improvement."
And it has been a steady one for the sophomore.
After averaging just 6.2 points per game during Hopewell's first five contests, Jones has since averaged 12.3 points per game during the last 10 games, highlighting the learning process the forward is undergoing.
In fact, it's Jones' ability to take criticism and implement it to his own game which has led to the success on the court.
"He understands what I'm saying and he changes it," St. John said of Jones. "It's not like we work on it for the next three practices, he changes it right there."
However, Jones' impact is not just on the offensive side of the ball, but defensively as well. While Jones has struggled to keep up with more agile opponents, his long arms and instinct for the ball leads to turnovers.
Jones has picked opponents pockets for 22 thefts this season while also going after the offensive glass en route to compiling 21 offensive rebounds on the year.
"He makes up for the lack of lateral speed by knowing where he's supposed to be," St. John explained of Jones' defense. "Defense is more effort than anything else and he, along with some other guys, understood that in order to be on the floor, that's where we need them first."
"When we need tough defensive stands, I just have to go out there and make plays for the team."
It's something Jones will continue to do over Hopewell's final seven contests, showcasing both his offensive and defensive abilities in an attempt to win critical games down the stretch.