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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Kam Jones doesn’t care what you think — he knows what he can do, what he’s after

Kam+Jones+role+has+increased+with+the+absence+of+Tyler+Kolek.
Photo by Forster Goodrich
Kam Jones’ role has increased with the absence of Tyler Kolek.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — It was a two-word response.

Spoken like a man who knew he’d been disrespected. Said in homage to his injured teammate.

Kam Jones sat at the Big East Shootaround table in the bowels of Madison Square Garden, just minutes after his 23-point, five-assist and five-rebound commanding of Marquette men’s basketball over Providence in the conference tournament semifinals.

He’d been asked by host John Fanta what his reaction was when he learned he didn’t receive a single All-Big East honor.

And — in a similar vein to starting point guard Tyler Kolek’s famous words after being picked ninth in the 2022-23 conference preseason poll he made his feelings clear.

The PG version: “Forget ‘em.”

Jones has spent the last month operating as the Golden Eagles’ floor general in place of the All-American Kolek, who has missed the last six games with an oblique injury he picked up Feb. 28 in a 91-69 victory over Providence.

In those six matches, Jones averaged 20.8 points, 4.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game, including a career-high nine dimes in what could be called the most impactful game of his career: the Golden Eagles’ 86-80 regular season finale win over Xavier March 9.

“He’s all of a sudden become our point guard,” head coach Shaka Smart said afterward in the Cintas Center media room.

He’s developed into a multi-faceted weapon hell-bent on willing the Golden Eagles into the history books with multiple traits that culminate into him becoming an all-around, unavoidable monster. Marquette’s very own Hydra.

Cut off one head, two more shall take its place. Silence one element of Jones’ game, his many others will overwhelm you.

Meet Kam Jones the passer

Jones likes to say ball-handling has always been a part of his game, but he had a good reason not to show it.

“When you have the best point guard in the country, you really don’t gotta do it,” Jones said outside his locker room in MSG.

But when Kolek was out, and Jones had to, he did.

He facilitated to his teammates when defenders harassed, quelled opposing teams’ efforts to slow him down and made teams pay with impactful drive-and-kicks.

He effectively ran the pick-and-roll game with senior forward Oso Ighodaro. The pair combined for 54 of Marquette’s 86 points in the win over the Musketeers, finishing plays the two of them drew up over two years ago, when Jones was a first-year and Ighodaro a sophomore.

“We figured out this one trick coming off an empty screen. We just went up from there,” Jones said. “And then that year, the (Golden State) Warriors and the (Boston) Celtics were in the (NBA) Finals and we seen what Steph (Curry) and Draymond (Green) was doing. We were just like, ‘There’s no way we can’t do that.’”

With Kolek, Jones had multiple games with zero assists and averaged two per game. Without Kolek, he more than doubled that number to average 4.5 dishes per contest.

“Stepping up in that role, yeah it’s been a lot of fun,” Jones said. “In the end, you can’t really ask for much more as a competitor.”

Kam Jones makes a behind-the-back pass in Marquette’s win over Texas. (Photo by Forster Goodrich)

Get reacquainted with Kam Jones the hooper

Don’t be mistaken.

Even with Kolek on the court, Jones would sometimes create plays — he dished five assists against Illinois in November and at Seton Hall Jan. 6. But at the end of the day, he was a bucket-getting spark.

The 6-foot-5 guard’s 3-point shooting is what makes him an obvious scoring threat. But his ability to drive to the hoop and consistently score acrobatic, falling layups upgrades him to a very dangerous multi-level scoring threat.

“He’s tough to deal with because he can put spin on the ball from different angles,” Smart said. “He can finish with his right hand, left hand and obviously shoot the ball well from outside.”

He’s had the crafty one-handed finishes in his bag for years.

Jones’ grandfather’s basketball court in his backyard — the place Jones spent many a night working on the finer things of his game growing up — didn’t have a rim, only a backboard.

“I remember throwing the ball at the backboard a bunch of different ways, and seeing how the ball did different things when I did different things with the ball on the backboard,” Jones said.

“Growing up, you know where the ball should be placed on a lay-up, so you can kind of manipulate it a little bit with certain spins.”

Jones also boxes in his free time, which helps him improve his physicality and give him agile footwork when driving downhill.

“Boxing has definitely made my legs a lot stronger, sitting in a stance for a long time,” he said.

Say hello to Kam Jones, Mr. Clutch

Jones has always been the shooter. He’s stepped up as the passer.

Now he has also morphed into Marquette’s go-to clutch-time guy.

He scored 11 game-sealing points in the final four minutes against Xavier. He nearly scored a game-winning layup over Villanova in the Big East tournament quarterfinals, before the lengthy review overturned the call on the floor. He hit a baby hook to break Providence’s 5-0 run down the stretch of the Big East semifinals and put Marquette ahead by four points, 70-66, with 3:13 remaining.

Jones spent the clutch moments of some of the biggest games of the Golden Eagles’ brutally difficult season — whose strength of schedule ranks seventh overall and first among all Big East teams on KenPom.com — running the floor and making the important plays.

“These are opportunities you dream of, man,” Jones said. “To have the ball in your hands with the time winding down and it being a close game. So you just got to accept it and enjoy the moment.”

In the last month, Jones has seen a noticeable — albeit expected — uptick in his minutes per game.

At Creighton, Jones played the full 40 minutes. He played 42 of a possible 45 against the Wildcats in the tournament. Both against the Huskies and at the Musketeers in the final two regular season games, he saw the floor for 37.

“I thought the most impressive thing he did today was he overcame fatigue,” Smart said March 9. “Because he was tired a few times out there and there was a couple tired plays where I turned to our coaches and said ‘Should we sub and get him?’ And they’re like ‘No, we can’t.’ And then he came back the very next time and made the right play.”

Kam Jones takes a shot in Marquette’s 88-64 win over Xavier. (Photo by Forster Goodrich)

Welcome to the show, Kam Jones the leader

But what his teammates have seen him make the most growth in is his vocal leadership.

“It’s just all started with his focus increasing in practice. And obviously he’s already focused before that in practice, but just taking it up to a new level and just holding guys accountable,” junior guard Stevie Mitchell said.

“And then when we’re in film, just speaking up about what he sees, and about what he thinks he can do better, what other guys can do better. And just taking on more of a leadership role.

“A lot of stuff people don’t even see, but it has played a huge part of what you guys do see in him — step back threes, scoring on whoever’s guarding him. So I think that’s probably the biggest thing that has stuck out to me in just him turning up is just how he just stepped up off the court, and in the locker room.”

Jones’ role has grown significantly the past month. You name it, he’s done it. Then again, given the hampered Marquette lineup, he’s had to.

“When you lose a guy, especially one of your main players, you don’t really have to take his spot, you just have to do what you do, that much better,” he said.

But Smart and Kolek have been clear the senior point guard will return to the No. 2 seed Golden Eagles’ lineup in their NCAA Tournament opening-round matchup against 15th seeded Western Kentucky Friday afternoon at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. 

Upon Kolek’s return, Jones will no longer be as responsible for both the playmaking and shot-conversion duties with which he’s been burdened.

However, that doesn’t mean he can’t — or won’t — make the right play at the right time, whether it be a dime that leads to an open basket or a net-swooshing 3-pointer he lets fly from his hands with no hesitation.

“I just feel like I’m out there hooping,” Jones said. “Playing my game, reading the defense, making the right play.”

He’s done it before. He’s ready to do it again.

What his counterparts think is meaningless. He knows what he’s after.

“I didn’t work hard all season — I mean, all off-season, do all that to make a Big East team,” he said. “I did all that for where we are now in March Madness to make a deep run, and that’s all I’m focused on at the moment.”

This article was written by Jack Albright. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter/X @JackAlbrightMU.

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About the Contributors
Jack Albright, Executive Sports Editor
Jack Albright is a sophomore from Charlton, Massachusetts studying journalism. He is the Executive Sports Editor of the Marquette Wire for the 2023-24 school year. In his free time, Jack likes to hang out with friends and watch Formula 1. He is excited to write fun stories about all things Marquette athletics and oversee new types of digital content.
Forster Goodrich, Staff Photographer
Forster Goodrich is a sophomore from Lyme, New Hampshire studying digital media. Forster works on the photography desk as a Staff Photographer. Outside of the Wire, he is on the club waterski team, and enjoys everything outdoors. He is looking forward to the upcoming basketball season and getting to photograph games at Fiserv Forum.

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