RICHMOND — With three of Eastern Kentucky's top four scorers from last season gone, opportunity is knocking.
Jaron Jones is answering.
The 6-foot-5, 180-pound senior from Lexington played 29 games as a sub last year.
Now he figures in Coach Jeff Neubauer's plans to start in a guard-oriented offense.
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Those guards include four-year starter Joshua Jones, redshirt transfer (from Northern Illinois) Mike DiNunno and Jabs Newby.
The wild card on the wing, though, is Jaron Jones.
He led the Colonels in field-goal percentage (54.7) last season, but he never had more than 12 points in a game.
He scored 12 in EKU's 70-59 exhibition win Wednesday over Urbana.
At Bryan Station before switching to Harmony Prep in Cincinnati for his senior year of high school, Jaron Jones played two seasons at Carl Albert State, a junior college in Oklahoma, before landing in Richmond last year.
Neubauer said Jones has made great strides since then.
"We expect him to be a big part of our team," Neubauer said. "He's had the focus of a senior. His approach and his urgency daily has been outstanding, and I think that's going to go a long way. I do expect him to be our best defender this year, and he is really shooting the ball well."
Jaron Jones attributes his improvement over the last year to hard work.
He played in a Cincinnati summer league and worked with his AAU coaches in Lexington. He also got a little help from his friend, NBA rookie and former Bryan Station teammate Shelvin Mack.
"Coach Neubauer, we had a talk before the summer, and he just told me things that I needed to work on," Jones said. "He really helped me out and told me to get confidence in my shot. I just did all the things that he told me and took everything that everybody else told me and just put it all together and worked really hard. Hopefully, it could show on the court, with the help of my teammates."
As for Mack, who helped Butler reach the last two NCAA championship games, "he showed me a couple of threes — three (-point) drills that he does," Jones said. "It helps you improve your shot and consistency and stuff. That just helped me on my shot and, when I came back, I was shooting much better, with a lot more confidence."
His bread and butter, though, is not offense.
"My role comes from defense," Jones said. "(Neubauer) wants me to score but, for this team to be successful, I have to play great defense, get rebounds, score. I have to do a little bit of everything."
If that happens, Jones said, EKU will "have a great season. It's not about my individual goals. It's not about me; it's bigger than me. My goal is to make sure that this whole team is successful. And the team's goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament. ... If that's me averaging 10, 20 points, it's OK. If it's me averaging five points, it's OK. As long as we're successful and we're winning, I'm happy."