Jones expects comfortable transition at Indiana #iubb

LOUISVILLE — Curtis Jones couldn’t say no to Indiana.

How could he? With an offense that suits his up-tempo game and a backcourt that always has a spot for another versatile scorer, Jones may be among the finest examples of a Tom Crean prototype guard.

But when it came time to make a decision on his college destination last fall, the basketball end was only part of the discussion.

The deep personal relationships Jones has built with so many in IU’s Cook Hall facility turned into the biggest selling point.

“It helped a lot,” Jones said during Wednesday’s Derby Festival Classic workout at Male High School. “That was the place I felt the most comfortable.”

And after choosing IU over heavy interest from Georgetown and California, it’s the place that will greet the four-star combo guard with so many familiar faces when he arrives at the Bloomington campus this summer.

Consider the ties.

He grew up in Highland Springs, Va. — a town located approximately 10 miles east of Richmond. That allowed him to form a relationship with current IU junior guard Robert Johnson, who has been a friend of Jones since the Indiana signee was 9 years old. Jones is also a friend and former AAU teammate of Johnson’s younger brother, Malik.

A portion of Jones’ AAU career was spent playing in Boo Williams’ program — the same that produced Johnson and Troy Williams, who is Boo’s nephew. Given his inside understanding of Indiana’s program, Boo Williams said at the time of Jones’ commitment that Crean and IU would provide an ideal fit.

“He can really shoot the basketball,” Williams said.

He may be able to help distribute it, too.

Jones, considered one of the top 100 players in the 2016 recruiting class, primarily played the point this past season at Huntington (W. Va.) Prep, which is the same program that produced IU center Thomas Bryant. Jones and Bryant were two of Huntington’s stars during the 2014-15 season, and Jones has worked well in tandem with the Hoosier big man in the past.

Now that Bryant has decided to stay in school for his sophomore season, Jones said he’s glad the two will have the opportunity to reunite.

“I was happy,” Jones said. “But I want the best for him. If he would have went, I would’ve been just as happy for him. It was nice to see he’s staying. … He has a lot of energy all the time and it just travels to everybody. So if you’re having a bad day, you know Thomas is going to be there with energy all the time. He picks you up.”

Indiana extended its original scholarship offer to Jones in October 2014, and since that time, Crean has said he sees a jump in physical maturity on each occasion he’s watched Jones play. After completing his physical for the Derby Festival Classic on Wednesday, Jones said he stands at 6-foot-4 and approximately 170 pounds.

“I grew a lot,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to see, but I’ve also gained (weight) since last year — maybe 10-12 pounds and it turned into muscle. I’ve been in the weight room a lot.”

Of course, he’ll spend many more hours in IU’s weight room this summer. It helps, Jones said, that he already seems to have made a connection with Indiana strength coach Lyonel Anderson.

Meanwhile, Jones hopes to further establish his relationship this week with 6-10 forward signee, De’Ron Davis, who was also invited to the Derby showcase.

“I know he’s a real explosive guard,” Davis said of his future teammate. “His ball-handling is excellent, he gets to the basket and pulls up well. I think he’s going to be a big help to IU and open up the floor for me a lot.”

Jones will be playing in a backcourt that should be loaded with offensive potency, working around the No. 7 (James Blackmon Jr.) and No. 13 (Johnson) ranked shooting guards in the 2014 recruiting class.

According to 247 Sports, Jones — whose game most resembles Blackmon’s — is considered the No. 11 ranked combo guard in the nation. While Yogi Ferrell is, without question, a significant loss to next year’s lineup, Indiana’s backcourt shouldn’t lack explosiveness.

Jones is not merely a shooter — he is a scorer who has developed a knack for putting the ball on the floor and finding the basket at will.

Though he played plenty of point guard as a prep player, Jones isn’t thinking about which position he’ll play at Indiana.

He knows he’ll have a role — and a locker room full of players who will be happy to welcome him to Bloomington.

“The way their system is played, there are a lot of people that can play the point guard with Rob and James, also. It’s not really a big thing. We’re all guards and we’re all basketball players.”

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