The best Big East player you’ve never heard of.
Meet Dominique Jones. The most underrated, under-appreciated guard in the Big East last season, Jones operates offense for the South Florida Bulls.
A standout sophomore on the downtrodden, dungeon-dwelling Big East program that’s starving for a national glance, Jones isn’t worried about skyrocketing to stardom.
Not being mentioned in the same breath as other top-flight Big East guards never seems to get to Jones. He doesn’t think twice about it. He’s a cool customer. Throughout his career, coaches learn that DJ’s never bothered by the lack of individual shine, headlines, or the fact that he’s yet to crack the All-Conference team.
Jones doesn’t keep tabs on his numbers or mentions in USF forums, hound the Public Relations guy for stat sheets, or compare himself to other high volume scorers/playmaking guards who may be getting more love. Not Jones, he of the thick southern drawl and dieseled-up, tattoo-drenched arms.
He didn’t self-boast about establishing a new high-water mark when he hung 36 on Iona College. He was more content with scoring a non-conference victory to halt a two-game slide. At South Florida, pretty much any non-conference game is a must-win.
With a revived recruiting class featuring 6-11 JUCO transfer Jarrid Famous, who etched his name in record book lure at Westchester Community College (Valhalla, NY), the Highlands County tide could abruptly turn.
Through his win-crazy energy and high-motor style, it’s visible that personal accolades are meaningless to Jones, a chiseled 6-4 guard. Surprising people as a team, progressing on a day-to-day basis, and maintaining his role as USF’s do-it-all guard are first and foremost.
As a player, Jones would rather not shoulder the tag of go-to-guy.
He wants to have a hand in everything. He wants his teammates to be beneficiaries of his presence. Echoing the righteous ideology of the legendary Oscar Robertson, Jones buys into the theory that a team’s best player is the player who takes the team’s worst player and makes him good. “I want to do a little bit of everything,” Jones says.
“I don’t want to be a scorer, I don’t want to be a point guard, I don’t want to be a shooting guard. I want to be a player. I want to do it all,” he explains. “I’m kinda underrated, people say that, but that’s not my main focus. My main focus is just getting the job done for my team, just going out there and playing.”
Jones was a veritable batman for the Bulls last season, leading the team in essential categories such as points (18.1), assists (3.9), and rebounds (5.6). Despite this, he was still unknown to the masses. The cream always rises to the top, except when your squad can’t swim with the sharks of the Big East ocean and is instead situated with the algae and plankton at rock-bottom.
Although it was never his intention, Jones proved time and time again that he can “get his.” He shredded Bobby Huggins’ complex West Virginia defense to the tune of 35 points. He scorched the nets for 29 points and snared eight boards against Providence. A cyborg in Nikes, Jones seldomly played under 32 minutes in a game this season.
“I just want to be the face of the organization. If you look at it, our team is progressing,” Jones says. “I feel like we take steps back sometimes, but we have to keep pushing forward and get the best out of [next] season. Our goal is to just be prepared for the Big East tournament, get as many wins as we can. We need to keep getting better, set history, and just keep flowing.
“Our main thing is to just keep going, keep going, keep going. If a team rips off a little run, we don’t want to let up. We want to be right there and respond with a little run.”
If the Bulls—who stamped a shocking, 57-56 upset win over Marquette back on February 6—improve next season, Jones will make a little run to the Big East First Team.
Jones starred at Lake Wales High, evolving into a first team 4A all-state selection after averaging 21 points, 10 boards, and seven assists his senior year. The kid is Lake Wales through and through. He represents the school everywhere he goes.
When accidently asked if he played at a neighboring, rival high school, Jones served up a terse response: “Hell no!” He said. “Lake Wales baby, Lake Wales.”
Haven’t seen Dominique Jones play yet? Haven’t seen a personal highlight package or resume reel of his circulating around the web and sports channels?
Don’t worry. You will.
Zach Smart has written for Big East Basketball Report, Hoops Addict and The East Coast Bias. Read more on his blog.