John Jones didn’t become a household name in high school basketball during his one month in Chicago, and Illinois State can be thankful for that.
Jones, a Barbados native, had intended to reclassify himself as a Class of 2012 recruit and attend Powerhouse Prep after moving to Chicago in June, but the NCAA clearinghouse recently declared him a high school graduate after looking at his transcripts from Barbados and his one year at Howe Military School in Indiana.
Although the likes of DePaul and Missouri had started to catch wind of Jones after he played in a handful of high school events in Chicago last month, most of the high-major programs interested in the big-bodied, athletic forward were eying him as a 2012 recruit.
According to one college basketball coach, Jones would have undoubtedly ended up at an elite high-major program if he had played one more year of high school.
Instead, Jones has slipped into the hands of Illinois State coach Tim Jankovich and has the potential to be a game-changer for the Redbirds in the near future. Illinois State assistant coach Paris Parham was the lead recruiter on Jones.
On Saturday at the Sonny Parker Summer League in Chicago, Jones faced other college talent from around the area and showed off his potential. He threw down thunderous dunks, rose above opponents for rebounds, outmuscled players inside and displayed an improving touch around the basket.
Sonny Parker, who played in the NBA, was impressed with Jones.
“He’s got a lot of upside,” Parker said. “He has a 7-2, 7-3 wingspan.
I was very impressed with his inside game, with his footwork. He still needs some work, but you can see the potential is there with him being a really good player. They definitely got a steal in him. The coaching staff did their homework.”
Jones has been living with Powerhouse coach Jermaine Johnson and his family since arriving to Chicago. He has also been working out with Johnson twice a day on his game.
“I hate to say it, but maybe two years from now he’ll be a pro, easily,” Johnson said. “He’s going to have a bright future.
“He just works hard. He can run. He can jump. He’s just a big kid. We call him the sponge because whatever you teach him soaks right in. He takes it, and he runs with it. He can play, but he has a lot of work to do at the next level.”
Jones hasn’t even been in the United States for a year and still is learning the game. Throughout Saturday’s game, Jones looked to Johnson in the stands for advice.
Jones’ goal is to the play in the NBA, but he understands it’ll be an uphill climb to get there.
“I definitely have those kind of thoughts,” said Jones, who turns 19 next month. “It’s not going to be easy. I got to work hard. I have to get my weight up a little more and my athleticism. I think I’m going to be there.”
A year ago, Jones’ future appeared to be in track and field. He has competed in international events for Barbados in the javelin, discus and shot put. Last year in Indiana, he took second place in the state’s discus and shot put competitions.
Jones will also compete in track and field at Illinois State, but he considers basketball his priority.
“I love playing basketball,” Jones said. “I enjoy it more than track. It’s more exciting, and there’s more opportunity in the world in basketball after school.”
Aside from the chance to compete in both sports at Illinois State, Jones was also attracted to the school because it has a number of athletes from Barbados. Illinois State track and field head coach Elvis Forde is originally from Barbados.
Illinois State won’t replace home, but Jones thought it would help him to be around others from his country.
“It was tough [leaving Barbados], but there comes a time when if you want to get further in life you have to give up something,” Jones said. “Giving up home was what I had to do. It’s always going to be there.”