Jones working to add weight this summer

Not long after the spring semester ended, Indiana players were given options.

They could leave campus for a four-week period and return home to rest and recharge, or they could remain on campus and continue to train. For a time, Curtis Jones was going to take advantage of the break.

Then he changed his mind.

It’s an important off-season for Jones, who has a chance to fill a scoring need in IU’s backcourt next season. To reach that point, Jones decided it was best to stay in Bloomington throughout the months of May and June and lay the foundation for a big sophomore season.

“I think he’s really excited about his opportunity right now,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “He’s working extremely hard.”

Billed as a sharpshooting combo guard coming out of Huntington (W. Va.) Prep, where he was considered the No. 69 overall prospect nationally in the 2016 class, Jones scored in double figures only twice last season.

The first of those double-digit efforts came in the season opener against Kansas when Jones gave the Hoosiers an impressive effort off the bench. He scored 15 points in 16 minutes, connecting on three of his five 3-point attempts. Jones also helped seal the 103-99 win in overtime with two free throws and a dunk in the final 16 seconds.

But Jones didn’t score more than six points in a game during Big Ten play, never finding a niche as a shooter off the bench. With leading scorer James Blackmon now pursuing a professional career with the Philadelphia 76ers, there’s a clear opening for Jones to assert himself as the kind of player the Hoosiers believe he can be.

His decision to stay on campus during the early portion of the summer was a step in that direction.

“I think he’ll be a better player in his sophomore year than he ever imagined,” Miller said. “I also think that if he’s a better player than he ever imagined as a sophomore, we have a chance to be a better team.”

At this point in the off-season, the most important thing Jones can do is work on his body.

The 6-foot-4 guard arrived on campus at 175 pounds last summer. This year, the goal is to add to his spindly frame.

So while classmate De’Ron Davis is trying to lose excess weight this summer, Jones is trying to add bulk.

“We’ve got to get Curtis some weight,” Miller said. “De’Ron is giving his up. Curtis is grabbing De’Rons and going in the other direction. But Curtis has to change his body the other way for him to be a better player. He knows that. He’s aggressively going after that.”

That work could go a long way toward making Jones not only a better shooter, but a more diverse scorer.

Of course, it was Jones’ smooth shooting ability that attracted IU’s former coaching staff to him as a high school prospect.

At the time of Jones’ commitment in September 2015, AAU coach Boo Williams, the uncle of former Hoosier Troy Williams, compared Jones most favorably to Blackmon. At Huntington Prep, where he was also a teammate of former IU center Thomas Bryant, Jones averaged 20.0 points and five assists per game as a senior.

After averaging merely 3.5 points across the 33 games he played as a freshman at Indiana, Jones is pushing for a spike in production.

There’s a prime opportunity for him to seize during the coming months, and Jones’ summer attachment to the practice facility and the weight room is his course toward getting it.

“When he goes out there, people should say, ‘Wow, he looks a lot different,'” Miller said. “That’s gonna give him a chance to be a better player. He’s working hard at it.”