Monday, July 29, 2013 | 2 a.m.
This sequence of plays helps explain why Clark High incoming senior Diontae Jones is demanding attention from college basketball recruiters:
On consecutive defensive possessions last week, the 6-foot-6 forward took a charge and then blocked a shot while playing for the Las Vegas Prospects in the Las Vegas Fab 48. Both defensive stops led to easy fast break points for teammates in a blowout victory.
Later in the game, when Spencer Mathis scored on an alley-oop dunk, Jones appeared more excited about the highlight-reel-style play than his teammate making the basket.
“He is a glue guy,” Prospects coach Anthony Brown said. “He takes charges, dives for loose balls, claps it up for teammates. He’s the ultimate teammate.”
Jones said he has scholarship offers from Wyoming and UC Santa Barbara and expects Loyola Marymount to offer by the end of the month. He’s also being recruited by Colorado, Colorado State and Utah.
It’s easy to realize why Jones is drawing interest. When some players are more concerned with filling up the stat sheet offensively, Jones consistently strives to do the little things to help his team win.
“It all starts with defense. I’m a defensive player,” he said.
Jones is also capable on the other end of the court.
He averaged 12.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last season for Clark in leading them to the state championship game. His numbers would have been higher, but Clark’s starters typically saw little action in the second half because they led by a comfortable margin.
Jones has worked this offseason on his ball-handling and dribbling and says the improvements are obvious. He’s more comfortable with the ball in his hands and has developed a respectable jump shot.
“He still has a way to go,” Brown said. “That’s something you can always work on to get better at. But you can’t work diving for loose balls or taking charges. You either do it or you don’t, and he does.”
While Jones had been on the radar of colleges for a few years, the interest started to peak last summer. That’s when something clicked — he realized he could be a Division I athlete, and have college paid for, if he continued to improve.
He started logging more time in the gym at Clark with Chargers coach Chad Beeten.
“I realized how good I was when schools first started calling me,” Jones said. “After last summer, I started to focus on my all-round game because I realized I could go somewhere with (basketball).”
This summer, those sessions in the Clark gym have come with a different sense of urgency. Clark surrendered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of the state championship game against Desert Pines — a loss Jones and his teammates won’t soon forget.
“I think about that game every day,” Jones said. “I can’t wait for this year to start. Everyone’s mentality is totally different.”
Jones has been a mainstay with the Prospects since he was an eighth-grader, playing alongside a group of the Las Vegas area’s top 2014 recruits and developing a great on-court chemistry. On most possessions, Brown doesn’t even need to call a play.
“We pretty much know each others’ game,” Jones said. “Since we have been playing together for so long, you definitely have an advantage. We know what to expect from each other.”
Most of Jones’ teammates also drew interest last week.