Now try keeping up with Jones
Who was that young guy, wearing Bobby Jones' uniform? Who was that No. 15 so tentative with the basketball, not looking for his shot, not...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Who was that young guy, wearing Bobby Jones' uniform? Who was that No. 15 so tentative with the basketball, not looking for his shot, not driving the ball when the lane opened up?
"That couldn't be Bobby Jones," Bobby Jones thought as he watched the three-year-old tape of himself this past summer.
For 45 minutes in Washington coach Lorenzo Romar's office on the top floor of Edmundson Pavilion, Jones watched pictures of a player he barely recognized — the freshman Bobby Jones.
"My message was, 'Don't take for granted the improvement you've made,' " Romar said.
The tape was the before to Jones' 2005 after. It was like watching a documentary on the evolution of basketball. And it was the coach's way of congratulating his senior-to-be on his indefatigable work habits.
"Coach just wanted to show me how much my game has changed in three years," Jones said before Tuesday night's BCA championship game, an 85-74 Washington victory over Air Force. "He surprised me with the tape and it just showed the drastic change in my game since I was a freshman. When I was on offense I never looked at the rim. It just showed a player who wasn't confident enough to take big shots. At that point I just wanted to play and I was doing anything I could just to stay on the court. I just focused on defense and rebounding, which comes naturally to me.
"Now I've got to make my game more complete and people can't just say what I can and what I can't do. It's crazy how every year you get more and more options to do more things on this team. But if you don't work at your game, you're not going to get those chances. Now, coming into my senior year, I feel that every option is open to me."
That scared freshman has become a self-assured senior. The kid from Compton, Calif., who was Romar's first Washington recruit has polished off the rough edges. He has made himself into a complete player.
"He just kept working and working on the skills he lacked," Romar said.
Jones is driven. He listens to the voices in his head from the doubters who have been there since high school. Before and after practice as he tirelessly shoots jumper after jumper, he thinks about the people who tell him he isn't a good enough shooter to star in Division I.
Through the monotony of drills to improve his ballhandling he remembers the critics who tell him he doesn't have the handles to play in the league.
The critics push him, goad him, make him better.
"I'm just out there trying to prove people wrong," Jones said. "I'm trying to take that negativity and use it to motivate myself. For me, it's always been the case that I've had to prove people wrong."
Tell him what he can't do. Tell Jones he'll never be able to shoot the NBA three. Tell him that at 6-foot-7, he's a "tweener." Not big enough for the front court. Not quick enough for the backcourt.
Go ahead, bring it on. He can handle it. Just be prepared to be proven wrong.
"I've been proving people wrong my whole life," said Jones, who after three games is averaging 13.7 points. "If people believed in me and gave me all the praises and accolades, then I might just slack off like I've got it made.
"People will always say what they want to say, but at the end of the day, what I just want them to say is, 'OK, we looked at him wrong.' If I work hard enough, somebody's going to notice."
Even Romar wasn't sure what he had when he recruited Jones out of Long Beach Poly High School. Jones had led the school to a state championship even after its star and future NBA lottery pick Tyson Chandler got hurt. Romar knew Jones played hard. But there were gaps in Jones' game that Romar wasn't sure he could fill.
Every season, however, Romar sees new dimensions to Jones' play. More consistency in the jumper one season. Better ballhandling the next. Better range on his jumper the next.
"I work hard in the summer," Jones said. "Coach says that in the summer you can be selfish. That's when you get to work on your own game. I just think if I keep getting better year after year, the sky's the limit."
Jones finished his perfect summer of 2005 playing in the World University Games in Izmir, Turkey for the gold medal-winning U.S. team.
"If you had told me, when I was a freshman," Jones said, "that going into my senior year, I would have a chance to go outside the country and play for the United States basketball team, I wouldn't have believed it."
Look at the video tape. See the evolution of Bobby Jones.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
email@example.com | 206-464-2176
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.