Saturday, January 14, 2012
Verdell Jones In The IU Basketball Arena – Yeah, It Matters
Verdell Jones is not the next Isiah Thomas or Eric Gordon. That’s fine. Most of us aren’t.
He is a shooting guard by talent playing more of a point guard role by necessity.
How has he done?
Like so many questions in life, it comes down to perspective. For those who like to criticize and boo, Jones has been a disaster. He makes too many turnovers, forces too many plays, takes up too many minutes best reserved for, say, Will Sheehey. They count the days to his graduation.
For those who see the substance behind the all-too-human flaws, Jone’s much more than that. He’s a good teammate and person who does what he’s asked to do, on and off the court.
And then he does a little bit more.
Understand this -– love or hate him, Jones cares. He has the hunger you need to be successful.
And, yes, Jones has been successful in his four years as a Hoosier.
Jones will go down in IU basketball history as one of its best scorers, although he showed none of that against Minnesota. He has 1,261 career points, nine points ahead of Tom VanArsdale and four points behind Steve Green. There were a pair of very good players. Jones has a chance to surpass 1,500 points, which would put him in the top 15 in school history.
Jones also has 353 career assists, which ranks 12th in school history. He will finish in the top 10, and could surpass 400 assists.
QUICK QUESTION -– How many IU players totaled 1,500 points and 400 assists?
QUICK ANSWER -– Two, Damon Bailey (1,741 and 474) and Randy Wittman (1,549 and 432).
As for the part of Jones caring, flash back to late Thursday night. As was first documented by Peegs.com’s Jeff Rabjohns, Jones returned to Assembly Hall’s Branch McCracken Court after his 0-point (on 0-for-6 shooting), three-turnover Minnesota performance and went to work.
It’s the only way to get better.
We were there, as well. We watched him shoot. We watched him dribble, between his legs, around his legs, the pitter-patter of ball hitting floor and fingers echoing through the arena like the beat of distant drums, all the while wearing head phones and listening to music we figure did not include Frank Sinatra or Justin Bieber, although, do you ever really know.
It reminded us of a November night at Purdue’s Mackey Arena. After missing a couple of free throws during a game, Robbie Hummel returned to the court to shoot free throws. A lot of free throws. He stayed for more than an hour.
It’s what you do when you want to be good.
Coach Tom Crean was asked about Jones after the Minnesota game. The questioner started by saying it seemed Jones had lost some of his confidence down the stretch.
Crean, who very much cares about his players, got a little protective.
“Did he tell you that? He told you he just lost his confidence, or is that just your assessment?”
QUICK NOTE: Since Jones was not made available to the media, the questioner was giving his perspective.
“(Jones) is out there battling, I thought,” Crean said. “I don’t know if it’s confidence as much as edge. Again, I use that word, but that’s what it is. Your seniors and juniors, when you have two guards like Verdell and Jordan (Hulls), the’ve got to be on top of the team’s game all the time. Now, they might not be on top of their game because they’re going to struggle, but they’ve got to be on top of the team’s game…
“When you lose a game that you didn’t have that awareness or that edge, it’s on everybody in the program. I’m not going to single any one guy out. We all need to get better.”
So Jones will keep working to get better. He will continue making plays, like the drive-and-dish pass to Christian Watford that enabled IU to stun No. 1 Kentucky. He will have more turnovers and bad shooting nights. It’s what happens when you compete, when you lay it on the line.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best more than a century ago. And no, in case you’re wondering, we were NOT there covering it.
MAN IN THE ARENA
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Jones has known more defeat than victory at IU, but that has changed this season. The No. 7 Hoosiers are 15-2 entering Sunday’s Big Ten showdown at No. 5 Ohio State (15-3). It will have a must-win feel for both teams, who are 3-2 in conference play and who seek to put the pressure on first-place Michigan State, which was stunned by Northwestern on Saturday.
Jones has to play better that he did against Minnesota. So do the rest of the Hoosiers to give themselves a chance at a place where visiting teams seldom win. Ohio State has won 32 straight home games for a reason, and it has rarely come down to luck.
In the end, it will come down to who wants it more. That’s all the Hoosiers, and Jones, can ask for.
Memorial Stadium was lit up in snowy spectacle Saturday night as Hoosier football coaches showcased their facilities for recruits. Signing day looms on Feb. 1, and it never hurts to make a big impression.
When it comes to football facilities, at least, the Hoosiers know how to impress.