1:21 PM PDT, June 19, 2012
Coming from the Mid-American Conference, Ball State Senior Jarrod Jones didn't necessarily get the opportunity to play against a future professional basketball player on a game-to-game basis. In his NBA draft workouts, like the one he did for the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday afternoon, Jones is finding himself relishing the opportunity.
"I have always believed I can play on that level of playing against elite competition," said Jones. "When I finally get the opportunity, it feels good to be able to show other people I can as well. Not just to be the big fish in a small pond, but to be able to go out there against the sharks so to say."
If Jones was searching the waters for sharks, he definitely found some on the Pacers' practice court on Tuesday. Jones was joined by Duke's Miles Plumlee, Syracuse's Fab Melo, Dayton's Chris Johnson, Norfolk State's Kyle O'Quinn, and Houston's Jonathon Simmons in a battle of big men attempting to impress the Pacers upper management.
Jones, who averaged 14.7 points and 8.7 rebounds for a Cardinals squad that went 15-15 on the year, had been projected by mock drafts throughout his college career to potentially go in the second round. After the 2011-2012 season Jones draft status has seemed to drop, but he's hoping with workouts in Houston, Minnesota, and Sacramento as well, he can prove he can be an asset to a team. Here with the Indiana Pacers, he views himself as potentially a player that could play the power forward role.
"I definitely see with Hibbert down low with guys trying to crowd him that I could be the guy to open the floor up for him a little bit," said Jones. "I could pop-out, hit open shots, penetrate, and all of those are something I think I can bring to the table."
The Ball State Cardinal proved to be an accountable player during his tenure at the University, breaking the school's career record with 120 starts, finishing sixth in scoring with 1,623 points, and third overall in rebounds with 981. To improve off his college game though Jones says he has now been working on defending multiple positions man-to-man during his time off from school, along with trying to work on his aggression towards rebounding.
Not to mention, Jones has been taking some off-season advice from one Ball State University's most famous basketball products, the school's all-time leading point-scorer in Bonzi Wells.
"He's just been telling me to play hard, play my game," said Jones. "Don't let anyone take my confidence and just to go out there and be hungry on the floor. That is what is what I try to do."
Though he hasn't been a resident of the state of Indiana in quite some time like Jarrod Jones has, Warsaw, Indiana native and Duke Senior Miles Plumlee enjoyed the opportunity to return to Indianapolis on Tuesday. The last time Plumlee had stepped on the Pacers' practice court, the Duke Blue Devils were preparing to play the Butler Bulldogs in the 2010 NCAA National Championship game.
Duke won that game in 61-59 in nail-biting fashion, and the memories from Plumlee still run deep.
"Even last night I was walking by the monument and getting some food," said Plumlee. "I just remembered coming out there after the game and I'll just never forget it."
Plumlee helped lead the Blue Devils to a 27-7 record during his senior year, averaging 6.6 points and 7.1 rebounds on 20.5 minutes per game. Plumlee is potentially projected to go somewhere in the second round of the draft, if not undrafted by the end of the night.
In his workout with the Pacers, the seven-foot center hoped he could get across how badly motivated he is to play on the professional stage.
"I just want to show how bad I want this," said Plumlee. "I've been working for this my whole life. It's a dream of mine, and I feel like I have the skills and physical tools to play in this league a long time."
And though Plumlee moved to North Carolina to play high school basketball, the Warsaw native still feels he can be considered part of the hoosier-hysteria that runs through the state of Indiana.
"I think we just love the game," said Plumlee about basketball players from Indiana. "I know everybody who I talk to who has played up growing in Indiana has played as long as they can remember, and I'm included. When you grow up playing game it is kind of natural for you, and I think those intangibles kind of translate, especially at this level."
The NBA Draft takes place on Thursday, June 28th.
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