Preseason Player Breakdown: Verdell Jones

Verdell Jones is already the most prolific scorer to come through Indiana since D.J. White and he could finish as one of the top 20 scorers in school history, but he is still a long way from defining his legacy. He is the subject of our fifth postseason player breakdown.

The Past

Verdell Jones enters his senior season as a three-year starter who has averaged double-digit points in every season in his career. He’s already passed the 1,000-point mark in his career with 1,122 career points coming into the season, and if he posts point totals similar to the ones he’s had the rest of his career, he has a chance to finish in the top 20 on Indiana’s all-time scoring list. That would put him ahead of greats like Ted Kitchel, Steve Green, Tom and Dick Van Arsdale and Steve Downing and in the company of Ray Tolbert, Kirk Haston and Jimmy Rayl.

But there might not be a single member of the IU fanbase who would mention Jones in the same sentence as any of those players.

The biggest reason is that Jones happened to come a long in the darkest era of in the history of Indiana basketball and he hasn’t even been on a team that’s finished close to .500 let alone the national championship and Final Four squads that so many of the aforementioned greats were apart of. That of course has inflated his numbers because he’s been one of the primary perimeter scoring options – if not the top perimeter scoring option — on every team he’s played on.

But beyond that, there has been some dissatisfaction among the fanbase with Jones’ play in general, and Jones himself admits that last year especially, he showed that there were a lot of holes in his game. Indiana’s coaches have long been mesmerized by Jones’s mid-range game, but he’s never been good from outside the arc and he was just 17-for-57 (29.8 percent) from 3-point range last year. He’s also struggled to get the ball all the way to the bucket and finish at the rim.

His two-most alarming deficiencies, though, came in the areas of ball security and defense.  He spent most of the season starting at point guard, and all year he had turnover issues. He committed 83 turnovers compared to just 89 assists, and had one of the highest turnover rates in the Big Ten. He also had issues keeping opposing guards in front of him, even though he was rarely taking the opponents’ best guard.  Because of all of that, IU fans weren’t nearly as impressed with his 12.5 points per game.

The Present

Jones was nursing an injured knee for most of the first half off the offseason, but in a way, it actually appears to have been a blessing.

With the knee out of commission, that meant Jones couldn’t run or play much, but he could work on his upper body strength. He did and it showed. At the end of last season, Jones was listed at 6-foot-5, 175 pounds. Now he’s up to 6-5, 195, and Jones said earlier in the summer that he was actually closer to 200 pounds. The added strength is visually evident.

Jones said that could mean a lot. He said he hasn’t lost any explosion or athleticism, but he’s become much stronger with the ball. He can finish better against contact, and he doesn’t get bumped off the ball as much. That should allow him to turn the ball over less.

The strength should also help a lot on defense. Indiana coach Tom Crean said Jones has been better at staying down in a stance, fighting through screens and generally being a more physical defender. He’s also rebounding better, and appears capable of getting the 4-5 rebounds per game Crean wants from him.

The Future

As the most battle-tested member of the Indiana squad, it would appear likely that Jones will earn a starting spot early in the season, but it won’t be easy. Though junior Maurice Creek is out of the mix because of his Achilles tendon injury, Jones will still have a lot of competition to start at either guard spot. Jordan Hulls seems more comfortable at point guard, and had the team’s best assist-to-turnover ratio last year. Jones could easily move back to the wing, where he played as a freshman and sophomore, but sophomores Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey will give him a run for that spot, and Remy Abell and Austin Etherington could eventually get themselves involved there as well.

But the added strength could allow him to hold on to his role. His mid-range game is still more polished than either Oladipo’s or Sheehey’s, and Crean likes getting the ball in his hands. If the added strength does what Jones and Crean believe it can, than he could be able to cure a lot of the ills that gave Crean reason to consider taking him off the floor. If he can defend and score without turning the ball over, and help the Hoosiers get more wins than losses in his final season, IU fans may hold his legacy in higher regard.

26 comments

  1. I like his game as a wing/slasher type.

    I don’t like his game as a point guard.

    Hopefully IU’s coaches finally feel that way too. He’s a quality role-player who has been asked to do way more than he’s capable of doing. If he makes good decisions, and fills a role in the offense, instead of pounding it into the ground or turning it over repeatedly, he could have a really good year.

    Also, defensive improvement goes without saying. I’ll believe it when I see it, since his issues stemmed from a paucity of awareness, and it’s unusual to see huge strides mentally at this point in a college career.

    But I hope it’s all gotten better. We’ll see.

  2. Love your assessment jr5. Like you, my skepticism is hard to mask. Watching VJ3, to me, was like watching a player with Bracey Wright’s mind-set, but Charlie Miller’s skill-set. Let’s hope he finishes his career on a bright note !

  3. Verdell probably had me yelling at the TV these last three seasons more than any IU player I can remember. Yet, still I like the kid. He was recruited by the former coach to be a role-player with the thought that he might develop into a pretty good player by the time he was a Senior. He might have even been red-shirted his Freshman year.

    But by the time he arrived, that coach and most of what resembled a team was gone. Here he was, a skinny kid with a flawed game faced with joining a disassembled team with a new coach and becoming their go-to guy. The fact that Verdell stuck with the Hoosiers is enough for me to always like him and to always consider him a key contributor to our program. There have been plenty of times when I think his lack of sharing the ball, his lack of defense and his untimely turnovers have cost us about as many points as he scored. But that may be the price we pay when we have to ask a role-player to be our go-to-guy.

    This year he may be asked to make another transition, this time to role player instead of go-to-guy. I hope it is a transition he can accept and make. I hope his final year at IU is a great one. It sure would be nice if after toiling in the quagmire the last three years, that Verdell and the other Seniors could get a chance to play in the NCAA tourney this year.

  4. To me the most telling thing about Verdell is that the team played better without him last year when he was on the bench!

  5. Was Verdell recruited by the “former coach?” I think Pritchard, Elston(Crean inherited his commitment), and Roth are the only Sampson recruits left on the team. Didn’t Crean go after Jones in the spring of ’08? Maybe Dustin could give the answer.

    I tend to agree with Bob’s comment. The team did play its best stretch of ball when Jones was sidelined with injury last year. The roles were better defined, the movement on offense was identifiable, and Hulls really seemed to be energized.

  6. May I also add being in the top 20 scoring leaders in the age of guys jumping to the NBA by their second or third year doesn’t mean a hell of a lot. Not many prolific scorers that are in the sights of NBA scouts stay on a team for 4 years. EJ averaged over 20 per game his freshman year(21 ppg over 4 years could easily exceed 2600 career points). If you averaged 15 points per game over 4 years you should be above a 1500 point career total. Also keep in mind that NCAA rules prohibited guys like Steve Downing from playing their freshman year. His point totals, as well as many graduating players
    from that same era, were accomplished while having to sit out the first season.

    Sorry, but Jones’ game to date does not belong in the company of Downing and the others mentioned in your intro. No way..no how. It has nothing to do with your statement that “Jones happened to come a long in the darkest era in the history of Indiana basketball.”

  7. A two game stretch is hardly a large enough sample size to say that VJIII’s absence was what made the difference. Watford was a big key in the win against Illinois alongside Hulls. We saw defenses clamp down on Hulls and pretty much neutralize him down the stretch, with just him and a gimpy Watford those games would’ve been even more ugly if VJIII hadn’t of made it back…

    People also said the team played better when Wat was out… as if Pritchard has shown the ability to repeat his one-off outburst against Minnesota. I don’t get why people trash our players so much.

    VJIII is a good player who wasn’t suited to play the position our coaches asked him to play last year. He wasn’t put in the best position to succeed by IU’s staff. Hopefully they can correct that because he does have some skill. If Crean’s right and he’s our most improved defender he could really help us out by slowing down teams’ second best guard(Oladipo should draw the top opposing guard every night…). I’m looking forward to seeing what VJIII can do for us this year. I’ll be cheering for him loud and clear on senior night.

  8. Hey I don’t mind Jones as a poor man’s Rip Hamilton coming off screens and searching for mid-range jumpers. Please just don’t let him handle the ball. As more players gain experience and fill gaps in the program there is no reason for anyone to mention Jones and PG in the same sentence… Unless it’s “Jones curled off that screen nicely and the point guard delivered the ball right on time for a clean look.”

    I’m sorry but I had to snicker when Jones said he hadn’t lost any of his explosiveness or athleticism…

    Best quote of all the profiles so far.

  9. For What It’s Worth,
    As far as I’m aware, Jones was recruited entirely by Crean. I know he wasn’t signed by Sampson. I’m not sure if Sampson looked at him at all, but he was definitely Crean’s guy. Elston was actually a Sampson recruit even though he was in a younger class.

  10. That was exactly my recollection. That’s why I didn’t understand Boomer’s comments that he was recruited by the “former coach” and “stuck” with the Hoosiers despite the fact.

    Booger-

    The last three seasons VJ has received more constructive sideline hugs for bumbling errors on the court than the son of a head coach would likely get(not Bobby’s son, of course..but you likely get my drift). If you’re a Sampson recruit, then you get a snide look out the corner of an eye as you are scorned to the end of the bench for being a disappointment.

  11. Yep..JVIII was Crean’s very first recruit I believe. He was most certainly not recruited by Sampson. Elston, Pritchard and Roth were the only Sampson hold-overs.

  12. OK, my mistake – you’re right – Verdell was recruited by Crean. Just had a glitch in the memory train and I apologize. And as such, he did have a better idea of what he was getting into. But it still remains that he was a skinny kid with a flawed game (Crean didn’t have the pick of the crop) that was asked to be the go-to-guy on a really weak team. As others have noted, he was asked to do more than he was capable of doing. I think the coaches kept asking him to do more than he was capable of because they thought he was potentially capable of doing it. He’s been frustrating to watch, in my opinion, because he doesn’t seem to have enough awareness to learn from his mistakes. But, I’m still cheering for him because he’s one of our guys. I’m hoping he has limited time at the point this year and really has improved his defense. And I’m hoping he has a great season, for his sake and for ours as well.

  13. No problem, Boomer. You have a more positive outlook. I also want to cheer for him..It’s just been difficult at times when his focus seems to abandon the idea of looking to his teammates for the same promise of productiveness as his own “go-to guy” stats. For every turnover comes not only the loss in possible points(and a double gain given to the opposition if they score in return), but the potential lost in a teammate’s growth and experience that’s never getting a touch. Is much of the frustration, anxiousness, and awkwardness(foul slapping and forced offensive moves) seen in players like Elston and Pritch a result of never getting those touches and chances to contribute that gives oneself a true sense of being a valued member on the floor? A true leader knows how to build confidence around his own strengths. That’s why I think the team performed better with Hull’s at the point. It was only a two or three game stretch, but I think it was telling on how much the other guys on the floor looked more involved…In my opinion, the lights finally came on in the eyes of some players. I have a hard time cheering loudly for one guy when I think it’s at the expense of hijacking the energy of a team.

  14. I agree with everything you said, FWIW. No doubt about it. As I said, I’ve never yelled at the TV during a game as much as I’ve yelled at Verdell. I remember numerous times when Tom Pritchard rolled to the basket after a pick for Verdell only to be left standing there, wide open, as Verdell forced up a contested shot that didn’t have a prayer. I watched him drive into traffic with his head down so many times without a clue that maybe he should pass the ball. Don’t know if it was selfishness, belief in himself, or if once he gets an idea in his head he can’t let go of it. I think he has the least amount of awareness on the team for certain. But he has a great mid-range game and I hope that is the focus of his play this year. I’d like to see him come off the bench and play for short stretches. As for me being positive, Verdell’s a Hoosier and I’m going to cheer for him and wish him the best in his Senior year.

  15. I’ll also cheer for him because he’s a Hoosier. Hell, I optimistically cheer for Danny Moore to rest on the bench no more, no less. If I were to be brutally honest(which, I guess, I’m about to positively be), I would probably prefer more of Moore than Jones. Isn’t a good mid-range game just a nice way of saying a guy doesn’t have the strength and skill set to get to the rim? Cody will be able to exploit defenders with a guard that can create havoc and get deep penetration..Put-backs and lobs should be our feeding frenzy. Can VJ get to the glass? Can he get deep into the defense? I like your idea of VJ coming off the bench to play short stretches. Maybe he could just do some leg and arm stretches while staying on the bench? Sorry..couldn’t resist.

  16. No, I don’t think saying a “good mid-range game” is another way of saying he can’t get to the rim. I’m talking about that beautiful little pull-up jumper he has, and that shot seems to be a lost art these days in college bb. It’s a pretty dependable shot for Verdell. But, he might be able to get to the rim this year since he reportedly has added weight and strength. If so, I hope for two things: 1) he remembers to pass to Cody when the basket isn’t there and 2) that he improves his free-throw shooting because there isn’t much sense in drawing fouls if you can’t hit the free-throw. Can’t wait for the season to begin!

  17. I just hope to see more positive body language when things don’t go his way. Hopefully he’ll round out his game and get the turnover numbers down. That mid-range game is somewhat of a lost art…Who was the last IU player to have much of a mid-range game?…Cheaney? Woodson? Hard to remember any tall guards that could hit the quick pull-up jumpers and fade aways…A.J. Moye was pretty tough from 15 feet inward. He was the tenacious and relentless type of kid we just haven’t seen much of from this group. That’s the true lost art..gut-checking, never-say-die, chip-on-your-shoulder, in-your-face determination with an added dose of unselfishness.

    That’s what I want to see out of everyone this year. Less finger pointing and confused looks. I want guys that won’t forget the bad taste in their mouths from the spankings we took the last three seasons. Make a layup instead of attempting a highlight reel dunk where the ball flies off the hand into the third row of the pep band. Be sound and look for your teammates. Let’s beat up on some rivals with zero cockiness in the process.

  18. FWIW, Brian Evans and AJ Guyton both had sweet pull up jumpers. But I think Calbert had the smoothest. The guy could curl and slash. And he would throw it down when the situation arose. Total offensive package. Solid on D too.
    Good comments you two.

  19. Cheaney, Woodson, Evans, Moye and Guyton. Wow, sweet memories (thanks Mass and FWIW). Wouldn’t it be something if Verdell could channel any one of them? FWIW, here’s to spitting that bad taste out and doing some spanking of our own! Go IU!

  20. The situation as explained by Coach Crean would indemnify defense as the key to IU’s success this year. That being the case leaves only a small opportunity for VJ to be a contributor to that success. His contribution may be much larger in practice as veteran competition.

  21. You could be right, HC. Coach Crean really needs to stick to his statement that defense will determine who plays. Now, Coach Crean and Verdell are saying that Verdell has made great improvement on defense. If true, that’s good news and will help Verdell get playing time. But if not, he should sit. I hope every player has improved on defense and I hope there’s been an improvement in team defense. That will be the key to the season, in my opinion.

  22. Could we have actually seen more reasons to “sit” Verdell than what he gave Crean the last three seasons? Did he sit? Injury doesn’t count. Now he moves into his senior year and we honestly believe Crean will give the tough love to his first symbolic golden child a “new generation” of Hoosier recruits and force him to watch from the bench during his final season? Stick to his statement? I still say he had his fingers crossed….I mean really crossed. Have you guys forgotten the “new generation” campaign with the heavenly light shining from above onto the clasped hands our chosen few to lead us from the darkness? And Boomer….shame on you! Church Lady knows the source of your dropping that bit of insinuation…You nasty little devil..If I didn’t know better I’d think you were sharing an IP address in a lake of fire under Mackey Arena with 4tickpitchforkturds…You don’t bench the first commit of a forever remembered group of altar boys that wanted to come to Indiana when the program had been reduced to ashes. You might sneak in a red shirt for a senior(Fink) or push out a big body(Capo) to make room for a prize recruit(two Scoops of scholarship crunch breakfast cereal, anyone…?), but I don’t think we’re going that direction with VJ. We all sin a tiny bit. This is a coach that tweets daily about Christ and looks for any examples in his life(e.g. going to the grocery store to buy eggs) as moments to find passages in the Bible and reflect in 140 characters or less how all struggles a planked maple hardwood path lead to salvation. VJ will not see limited action as a “role player” in the resurrection. This is why I am praying to thy Lord he is vastly improved at protecting the ball and defending. Don’t expect him to be benched…just pray. Sampson recruit?

  23. Bob said it best the team had better chemistry with him on the bench last year. This year if he stays out of the mix the team has a better chance of success. It is too early in the year to start railing on one player but Crean has to see it. This is a giant step year to getting back to where IU BB needs to be…. put team players out there not a selfish player that pulls everyone down.

  24. this is indiana people!!! my how are standards have fallen!! does everyone agree that iu is one of the top 3 hoop schools in the nation? does anyone think vj3 would start or even make the bench at uk, duke, unc,ill,msu? i could name 10 more schools. hes a turnover magnet takes horrible shots and plays awful d. people remember what school your pulling for. INDIANA!!! uk or unc fans would have boooooooed this kid off the court. im so sick of these polite iu fans. give me some wins!!!!! politeness is why ctc has finished dead last in the big ten and still has a job. come on iu fans its ok to get upset when we are the laughing stock of the ncaa…

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