Notebook: Jones Making Fast Impression
The past two seasons have been quite the journey for Kevin Jones. In that span, he’s played in three leagues and two countries, suiting up for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Miguel Beermen.
You read that right – the San Miguel Beermen.
Now, Jones is in rookie/free agent camp with the Pacers, hoping to fight his way back to the NBA.
The 6-foot-8, 251-pound forward has made a fast impression. On the second day of camp, Pacers assistant coach Dan Burke (who is running the camp and coaching the team’s Summer League entry in Orlando) was asked which players had stood out to him so far. Jones’ name was the first (and only) one he mentioned.
“Kevin, he’s got ability to use his body, create angles,” Burke said on Wednesday. “He runs the floor, he shoots the mid-range jumper. He’s a great rebounder…He’s that one that’s really jumped out for me.“
Jones went undrafted two years ago out of West Virginia, where he was a consensus Second-Team All-American and led the Big East in scoring as a senior. But he found his way to the league, appearing in 32 games for the Cavaliers during the 2012-13 season and splitting time between the NBA and Canton Charge in the Development League.
He returned to Canton at the start of last season and had another strong campaign. Jones was named a starter in the 2014 NBADL All-Star Game and averaged 16.9 points and 8.0 rebounds in 38 games.
But after consultation with his agent, Jones opted to leave the D-League in March to accept a more lucrative contract offer in the Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) with the San Miguel Beermen. It turned out to be an experience Jones, who had never played overseas before, will never forget.
The PBA only allows one foreign player per team (other Americans playing there this season included Darnell Jackson, who was on the Pacers’ training camp roster in 2013, and former University of Memphis forward Robert Dozier).
In addition, the league won’t allow players taller than a certain height. At 6-foot-8, Jones was right below that threshold. Despite having to adjust to unfamiliar surroundings, Jones dominated play in the league’s short season, averaging 26.6 points and 15.1 rebounds in nine games.
After returning to the States, Jones caught the eye of Pacers scouts at a mini-camp earlier this summer and earned an invitation to try out for rookie/free agent camp.
As for what he’s done so far in camp to catch Burke’s eye, Jones insists it’s been nothing out of the ordinary. He said he just tries to listen to the coaching staff and compete as hard as he can.
Jones lists his own strengths as rebounding, hustle, and basketball IQ, but also thinks having experience in the NBA gives him a bit of a leg up on some of the less-seasoned players in camp.
“I’m still learning as well as they’re learning, but just (having) that gear under my belt of NBA experience taught me how to conduct myself and how to come in and work every day,” Jones said. “So I would say I have a slight advantage.”
If he continues to impress in Orlando over the next week, Jones just might be donning an NBA uniform once again this fall.
Whittington Makes Appearance
Shayne Whittington, a 6-foot-10 center who signed with the Pacers on Wednesday, made an appearance in camp on Thursday.
However, Whittington will not be travelling to Orlando for Summer League, as he continues to recover from breaking the fibula in his left leg during a workout in Chicago on May 8. He recently got out of his walking boot but is currently limited in what he can do on the court – he still hasn’t been cleared to begin running.
Whittington recently finished his career at Western Michigan, where he averaged 16.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks as a senior. His focus now is on recovering enough that he is “full-go for training camp."
Prior to his injury, Whittington had impressed at the Portsmouth Invitational, where he showcased his mobility and an expanded range on his shot.
“Every shot that I took in college was either a (end of) shot clock situation or a pick-and-pop kind of thing, and they were always 15-footers,” Whittington said. “…I really extended my range in the three weeks that I had before Portsmouth.”
Hill Tweaks Ankle
Pacers forward Solomon Hill is hoping to use Summer League to prove that he’s ready for an expanded role in his second year, but those plans hit a small road bump Wednesday night, when Hill sprained his right ankle.
“At the end of the scrimmage, I just kind of came down on it wrong and it swelled up on me,” Hill said Thursday.
Hill’s official status is day-to-day. He hopes that the swelling goes down quickly so that he can fully participate in all of the Pacers’ Summer League games.
The Pacers announced Thursday they have released guard Eric Atkins and forward C.J. Leslie from their rookie/free agent camp roster.
That leaves 14 players on the camp roster. Indiana will practice one more time on Friday morning before heading to Orlando, where their first game is scheduled for Saturday at 9:00 a.m.