Freshman guard Andrew Jones continues to transition into a more complete player. Lately, its been noticeable.
Most collegiate players plow into a learning curve in their first season. Jones has yet to break out of that loop, but he’s close.
“I think Andrew’s learning quite a bit,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “Like any other freshman, he’s had some ups and downs this year. Like any other freshman, at times things have been harder than maybe he anticipated.”
But lately Jones has shown steady strides in his play. Over the past nine games, Jones has averaged 12.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. During that stretch, his field goal percentage is a respectable 44 percent and his minutes have increased.
It’s Jones’ versatility that sets him apart. He can score inside and outside. His 6-foot-4-inch, 190-pound frame makes him difficult to guard. His speed and instincts make him a nightmare in the open court.
“Transition is one of the areas that we felt like he was best at when we recruited him,” Smart said. “He’s still learning now at the college level when to attack the basket or shoot a three as opposed to when to give the ball up because in high school and AAU, he was basically unstoppable in transition.”
Jones’ outside shooting ability has also emerged. Last Saturday against No. 7 West Virginia, Jones was unafraid to let it fly from behind the arc. He finished with 17 points and went 4-of-9 from the three-point line. It was the second time this season he’s hit four three-pointers in a game.
On the defensive end, Jones must still progress. The former McDonald’s All-American even admitted after Texas’ 85-52 win over Eastern Washington on Nov. 17 that he “didn’t play much defense in high school.”
“In practice, [the coaches are] on me a lot about staying in my stance and guarding,” Jones said. “Coach [Smart] gives me a lot of confidence that I can be a great defender.”
Jones, a five-star recruit out of MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, arrived on the 40 Acres as the No. 6-rated point guard in the country, according to Scout.com’s rankings.
While Jones is not the true floor general that former point guard Isaiah Taylor was, he still has seen an increased role in ball-handling duties to help out sophomore guard Kerwin Roach Jr. So long as he protects the ball, of course.
“Our strength coach always tells Andrew that the ball is gold so you have to value it like it’s gold,” sophomore guard/forward Tevin Mack said. “Don’t lose it because we have to keep control of the ball.”
But the added responsibility is nothing new to Jones. He’s used to it by now.
“In high school, that’s what I did,” Jones said. “I led the team. I ran the show. Now that Coach [Smart] is allowing me to do that more, it’s restored a lot of confidence in me on the court.”