Before the ball was even tipped up to start the year, Marist’s men’s basketball program was in the midst of a massive rebuild, primed to take the court with a brand new roster. Head coach John Dunne had four of his senior starters from the year before move on, and three of his would-be-returning role players transferred out of the program.
The team was shaken up even more when in January starting guards Matt Turner and Darius Hines were dismissed from the program for violating team rules. That left Dunne with five players who saw the court the year before; those five only combined for 1,020 minutes out of 6,250 in 2018.
They had little to no shot to come out on top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Instead, they were given a season for Dunne to experiment with his players and lay the foundation for the future. What can be taken away from this season is that they officially began the adjustment and rebuilding process that was inherently promised by the team’s preseason makeup and used minutes to develop the team. The season wasn’t glorious by any standards, but there were players that had bright spots (here and there) that will give fans some hope for some success in year three under Dunne. If “bright spots” were a measurable statistic, center Jordan Jones would lead the pack.
Jones spent the 2018 campaign watching from the sidelines waiting for his turn while wearing his redshirt after transferring in from Charleston Southern. When freshman Luke Nedrow took off in the offseason to join Shippensburg University and play for the Raiders, it left Jones and senior Tobias Sjoberg as the two main options to see minutes at the big man spot.
He responded by averaging 8.5 points per game, recording 19 blocks (which led the team), and maintaining a stellar 54% field goal percentage (good for fourth in the MAAC) in 28 starts. Jones proved he was a player who would fit nicely in Dunne’s defensive focused gameplan. Before he transferred to Marist, he showed similar grit in the paint, averaging 1.2 blocks in only 15.6 minutes per contest. When describing his defensive prowess, Jones noted, “defense is a lot more like… having a will of how I am going to enforce my defensive presence on the game.”
When talking about who he tries to model his game after, Jones mentioned Montrezl Harrell of the Los Angeles Clippers. Likely inspired by the recent documentary, The Last Dance, Jones also said that he looks to emulate Dennis Rodman. “I’ve been trying to get to a Dennis Rodman level with just the ferocity he plays with.”
Jones really came into his own during the last 12 games of the season; he had seven games in double-digit scoring, and in four, he eclipsed 18 points. Three of those games ended in Marist victories. Jones finished the season with 12 games recording 10 points or more, and five games with two shots blocked. His upside came in spurts, partially because he was sixth on the team in minutes played. With Sjoberg out of the picture — having graduated and all — Jones should be the center of attention at the center position next season.
As is only natural, this year’s season-ending loss Marist suffered at the hands of Niagara didn’t sit well with Jones. “It was tough,” he said. “We knew we should have beaten them.” After defeating the Purple Eagles twice in regular season play, it seemed as though Niagara was the best possible matchup for Marist to see in the first round. “It’s hard to beat a team three times,” he did mention, “but I feel like that was a winnable game for us.”
Looking forward to the fall of 2020, Jones is optimistic about the season starting on time, regardless of the coronavirus’ current threat to sports.“We aren’t even sure about the summer yet, but me and the team are just trying to stay ready for whatever happens,” he said. The basketball season came to an end for Marist before the pandemic could cancel their season. Jones feels fortunate enough that he was able to play his full season, as he saw firsthand what spring athletes had to go through. “It was just an abrupt end to society,” he said. “The spontaneity of it all was just like ‘wow.’”
In his home in Baltimore, Maryland, like many other basketball players across the world, Jones remains “hoopless” waiting for the end of quarantine. The basketball community took notice when NBA star Jayson Tatum told the world he didn’t have a basket to practice on at his house. Jones shared a similar experience, saying that all hoops in Baltimore were taken down since people weren’t adhering to social distancing guidelines. Without professional hoops or even college basketball to watch, a basketball seems like something of the past to Jones. “I haven’t shot a basketball since the season ended.”
If the season is to start on time next fall, though, Jones believes that the foundation is in place for the team to find success with their newly-established team culture. “We started to build a culture of… what it takes to win,” he said. “Even regardless of how the season goes next year win-loss wise, we just want to know that we started that winning culture built on hard work.”
Edited by Will Bjarnar