High-flying 2015 prospect Jones visiting Kentucky for alumni game

broberts@herald-leader.comSeptember 5, 2013 

2015 prospect Derrick Jones

CREDIT: STEVEN MAIKOSKI/USA BASK

For all of the basketball talent expected to be in Rupp Arena for UK's Alumni Charity Game on Monday night, the best dunker in the building might be sitting in the stands.

Derrick Jones — a lanky forward from Philadelphia — is scheduled to be at the game on an unofficial visit. Jones is one of only six players from the Class of 2015 with a scholarship offer from Kentucky, and he's already established himself as a five-star prospect in the class.

Archbishop Carroll Coach Paul Romanczuk acknowledged Thursday that most of the attention his player has received has been centered around his athleticism.

When Jones takes off, people take notice.

"He's kind of like a human-highlight film just waiting to happen," Romanczuk told the Herald-Leader. "Tip dunks, getting out in transition for some high-flying-type finishes. Blocks that end up in the third or fourth row. He's just a very dynamic player. And, with all that being said, he's young. His body's very young. He's very thinly built."

Jones was already a highly touted prospect when he showed up at the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp in June. At that event, the 6-foot-6 prospect wowed the recruiting analysts in attendance with several highlight-reel jams.

Sometimes, those dunks come at the expense of his opponents.

"He's got a take-off zone, and he's going to try and dunk on you if you're in that zone," Romanczuk said. "And that's great. That's something that is tough for some kids to learn: If you can go up and dunk it, well go up and dunk it every chance you get. He has that type of killer mentality around the basket."

John Calipari was obviously a fan. The UK coach offered Jones a scholarship after seeing him play at a Reebok event in Philadelphia in July.

Kansas, Syracuse and Maryland are among the other major programs that have already extended offers to Jones, who Scout.com ranks as the No. 14 overall prospect in the Class of 2015.

That lofty ranking is a sign that Jones is more than just a dunk machine.

Romanczuk said it was Jones' defense that earned him a starting spot early in his career.

Jones had been playing about 10 minutes per game midway through his freshman season. When one of the senior starters went down with an injury, Romanczuk gave Jones a shot.

"From there on, our team kind of took off," he said. "He gave us a dimension that we didn't have at that point. Defensively, he could protect the rim. He was only 6-4, he was rail thin, but he was so long and athletic that he could go and protect the rim. He just had a great feel and timing at that end of the court. He's almost a natural defensively."

Over the past two seasons, Jones has gone from a rim-protector to a player who regularly defends smaller, quicker opponents on the perimeter.

His offensive game — other than the dunking — remains a work in progress.

Romanczuk said Jones has improved dramatically in that area over the past two seasons as he has gained confidence in his outside shot. The coach estimated Jones was about a 35-percent shooter from three-point range as a sophomore, and he's hoping that number goes up this season.

"He still has a lot of things he can improve on, which is a scary thing for our opposition," Romanczuk said. "He can really improve his skills, and he can really improve his body. He's just going to get better and better, and it's going to be a pleasure to coach him over the next couple of years."

Romanczuk will be talking to plenty of college coaches during these next two years. He said he's heard from several major coaches this week who called to confirm they'd be attending upcoming open gyms at the school.

Romanczuk knew he had a talented player when Jones first showed up as a freshman, but he didn't think the national attention would come this quickly.

"I've had some great players at Carroll. But no one that really broke out like that," he said. "Am I surprised? Yes. That's the best of the best. You're talking Kentucky, you're talking Kansas, Maryland, Syracuse. You're talking teams that get to the Final Four regularly and win national championships."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats.Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.

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