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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Jones becomes “alpha” and leading scorer on nation’s Top 10 team

Court presence and persistence aid in Jones’ development
Photo by Alex DeBuhr
Sophomore guard Kam Jones leads all scorers on the men’s basketball team with 14.9 points per game.

When unranked Marquette stunned then-No. 6 Baylor Nov. 29 at Fiserv Forum, the Golden Eagles put the country on notice.

Sophomore guard Kam Jones also sent a notice to the coaching staff.

“That game (against Baylor) showed us that Kam can be an alpha for us on both ends of the floor,” assistant coach DeAndre Haynes said. “He took that and he ran with it and we knew right then and there that we had a different Kam in here, he’s a different breed.”

For the next five games, starting with Wisconsin Dec. 3, Jones averaged 20 points per game with a career high 26 against the Badgers.

Haynes said Jones being an alpha with the team hasn’t always been the case, as he came into Marquette as a quiet person.

“Everything was like ‘Yes sir’ and really quiet,” Haynes said. “He came in,  he really wasn’t talking to nobody. In the film room, guys are separated, sitting away from each other, but as time went on, he got a lot more comfortable with me and his teammates.”

Part of the reason he wasn’t as vocal his first year was the transition from a star player in high school to a role player in college.

“Coming in as a freshman everybody was the man their senior year of high school, especially at this level,” Jones said. “Going from a leader to more of a role player, you tend to have those doubts to where you see something but you don’t want to say it, (and) are they going to listen?”

Jones also experienced an adjustment period on the court before the season even started. One example was a drill during the summer, where Jones was matched up one-on-one against junior guard Tyler Kolek.

“I was closing out short every time because I’m not trying to get beat and so he hit four in a row and I remember him telling coach he’d hit 100 in a row,” Jones said. “At this point, I’m not letting him shoot no more, so I close out high and he goes right by me and he lays it up and I was like sheesh, so I see what I gotta do (now).”

Despite the growing pains, head coach Shaka Smart saw the potential of Jones down the stretch of the season.

“I felt like last year in the second half of the season in practice he was the best scorer on our team,” Smart said.

Now in his second season, Haynes said Jones has taken that role of the big time scorer with the departure of Justin Lewis.

Jones said accepting that role has been important in his development as a leader.

“Just embracing my role that I am a respected player on the team, my voice is respected and knowing that helps a lot as far as talking,” Jones said. “Knowing people are going to listen, knowing people are going to take in what you’re saying definitely gives me confidence.”

After averaging 7.4 points per game, Jones has doubled that average up to 14.9 points per game while shooting 46.9% from the field, a 5.4% increase from his 41.5% shooting from a year ago.

That all came with Jones learning to trust his teammates and the staff, Jones said.

“The relationships we have with one another are genuine,” Jones said. “Having that around me, embracing that as well and not take it for granted.”

Kolek said that Jones shows that same level of authenticity with the rest of the team.

“His biggest thing is he really loves us and we love him and that’s something for every guy on our team,” Kolek said. “We love everybody on our team and that’s one of our biggest advantages.”

Haynes said he saw Jones’ growth in trust translate on the court during Marquette’s win over Xavier Feb. 15 despite shooting 2-for-14.

“He was positive on the bench, talking with everybody. Some guys would have gone into a hole, he doesn’t do that so that was growth,” Haynes said. “He was quiet last year, we had to talk to him, he would go into his shell, but now his head is poked up (and saying to) Stevie (Mitchell) hey keep your head up, stay ready, hey coach I’m ready to go back in, he wasn’t saying those things, but now he is accepting his role.”

Smart even credited Jones for sticking with it all night long, despite his shots not going down.

“Kam Jones deserves a lot of credit, it wasn’t his best game but he hung in there and stayed connected with his team, his teammates,” Smart said after the win over the Musketeers. “Just his presence on the floor offensively even though he only scored five points is a huge difference maker for us.”

Jones said having the confidence from Smart and the rest of the team to be himself is something special.

“When your head coach is telling you to be aggressive and keep shooting and keep doing you and I can’t get anything to fall that says a lot for itself for the confidence he has in me and that the team has in me,” Jones said. “I’m grateful to be part of something like that.”

This story was written by Jackson Gross. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JacksonGrossMU.

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