WWU's Paul Jones proving to be one of hardest to defend in GNAC
Feb. 2, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By ANDREW LANG -- THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
Paul Jones still remembers watching the Western Washington University men's basketball team from the stands when he was a student enrolled at WWU four years ago.
Now he's averaging 15.6 points his senior year and has helped the No. 2-ranked Vikings to a 19-0 record.
Plenty of former high school basketball standouts aspire to be great players. Not many have Jones' drive and make it happen.
Jones' story of how he's become Western's second leading scorer is phenomenal. Two-plus years after graduating from Kent-Meridian High School, he enrolled at WWU for academics. Determined to play college hoops, the ultra-athletic Jones began honing his skills on his own, received an offer to play at Whatcom Community College, then a year later transferred back to Western and redshirted the 2010-11 season before playing a sixth-man role on last year's national championship team.
"When I first came here, I would come to the games with my buddies, and I would watch them," Jones explained. "I've always looked at it like 'Hey, I can play at this level.'"
Jones and the Vikings put their perfect record on the line against No. 4-ranked Seattle Pacific (16-2) in a GNAC contest at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at Carver Gym.
What's arguably more impressive than Jones' back story is how he's transformed his game since graduating from Kent-Meridian in 2007.
Jones averaged 11 points and 8.5 boards during his prep career. Respectable numbers, but not stats projecting a future collegiate standout.
"In high school, I was really just like a shooter, shooter, shooter," Jones said. "I never really penetrated. All my buddies were just like, 'Dog, you get to the cup, it's easy buckets.' I shot really well, so If I didn't shoot when I was open, I was getting pulled out. So it was like, 'If I'm open, I shot.' I didn't really think to attack or be aggressive."
Regional colleges weren't salivating at the chance to swoop Jones up. He didn't receive any serious offers.
He's made many coaches think twice since. Even coach Tony Dominguez is on the list of those who regretfully didn't snag Jones out of high school.
"I think I kind of made a mistake," Dominguez admitted, "because when he came to our camp when he was a kid, I didn't really recognize him. I think that was a huge mistake, because he's so talented. He came up here and played with some of our guys in pick-up (games), and a couple of our much older guys were really high on him."
Dominguez did ask Jones to try out, but an insurance issue prevented him from competing for a roster spot.
Listed at 6-foot-4 with a stork-like wingspan, Jones has always had the frame to become a prototypical small forward. He just needed to add dimensions to his game.
"I wanted to be someone that was effective all around, from attacking, from mid-range, from the 3 - have that triple threat," Jones said. "After high school, I just started learning how to drive more and got my ball handling skills up. It's something I needed to do, and I figured out on my own that in order to become a better basketball player I would have to eventually learn and be effective."
Jones attributes his ability to transition into a complete player to the work he put in on his own. He also said listening to his friends, who've always told him to be more aggressive, has helped, too.
Dominguez credited Jones' development to the senior's personal drive and will to be great.
"He got determined," Dominguez said. "He is a young man who really works hard at doing the right things in life. It's exciting for me to see someone realize their dream and run with it and not just let their talent waste and be bitter because no one recruited him, sit in the stands and be mad for five years then graduate. It says a lot of him that he chased his dream, kept pursuing us and made it happen."
Dominguez has said many times Jones was talented enough to start last year. Instead, he came off the bench and averaged 7.9 points and 4.4 rebounds.
He's started every game this season and has nearly doubled last season's scoring average.
"It was pretty evident I would have to come in and fill that starting role," Jones said. "I knew I just had to produce more and be more effective early on and contribute more."
Jones has enjoyed several strong outings this year. He scored a season-high 27 points during a win against Western Oregon Jan. 17 and scored 26 against Thompson Rivers Dec. 30. Jones also had 18 points and 11 rebounds, including the game-winning bucket, against Central Washington in a televised game on ROOT Sports Jan. 10.
Dominguez said Jones has become nearly impossible to guard. His defense and rebounding is also second to none.
"He is kind of the prototypical three man if you think about it," Dominguez said. "He is very athletic but at the same time very fundamental. You're getting a guy that's 6-5 that's got long arms that can shoot a pull up with a good one-two step, can make the right read on a screen and at the same time knock a 3 down, and if a guy gets in his face, he can drive and dunk on a guy. It makes him impossible to defend."
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