ACC Tournament: Jones goes from Kannapolis to the bright lights of the ACC
GREENSBORO — Teven Jones has had to do a lot of convincing as an athlete.
Most saw him as a star on the gridiron at a school where football was king. But for Jones, whose first love was the hardwood, breaking up was hard to do.
Jones received a lot of attention for his football efforts at A.L. Brown but the 6-foot, 180-pound redshirt freshman has put his dreams as the priority.
Playing Division I basketball is fulfilling that dream and Jones, who started nine games at point guard for the Cavaliers this year, has exceeded it.
“I actually just played football to stay in shape for basketball,” said Jones, who averaged 21.6 points a game at Brown his senior year and was selected to play in the East/West football All-Star Game. “It turns out I was good at it.”
Jones said he made some people mad for pursuing hoops while ignoring the offers he was garnering for football. He was the team’s leading receiver in 2010 and impressed scouts with his elusiveness.
Jones finished his football career with 1,092 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns, including one in the 3AA state championship game.
“I was getting lots of football attention,” Jones said before rattling off a list of schools such as Clemson and East Carolina. “Until my ninth-grade year, I didn’t have that much experience with football.
Despite the flair for hoops, Jones wasn’t seen as a priority for most college programs in basketball. Without any Division I offers his senior year, Jones went to a showcase and met with Fishburne Military School. He agreed to play there and later enrolled early at UVA in January 2012.
Jones has shown flashes of the player he wants to be in his first year. When starting guard Jontel Evans was hurt early in the year, Jones was given the keys to the car. He hit two 3-pointers against North Carolina and logged 13 points and four assists against North Texas in November.
“My role then was just to bring energy, play defense and score when I had to,” Jones said. “I’m used to getting everybody involved and I like doing that, but I hope one day I can get that green light.”
There was a freshman wall midseason but he stormed the court with teammates and students in a victory over Duke, UVA’s signature win.
“It’s been fun,” Jones said. “It has its ups and its downs. I’ve been getting good experience as the season’s gone on.”
During the summer before 10th grade Jones broke his thumb and had it in a cast. He watched the football team practice and caught the bug. Jones flourished and got big-time offers to play college football.
Fortunately his 4.43 speed in the 40-yard dash and 331/2-inch vertical jump were skills that transferred to the court as well. After football ended his senior year, Jones came out and averaged 29 points in the first four games.
Fishburne, a post-graduate school in Waynesboro, Va., gave Jones more exposure against schools like Hargrave and Oak Hill.
“Just being there and getting that notoriety was amazing,” Jones said.
Virginia saw Jones at an AAU Tournament in Charlotte. Jones posted a double-double in two early games and caught the eye of UVA representatives.
Tony Bennett’s Cavs had two players, KT Harrell and James Johnson, transfer from that year’s class and needed some more talent to fill a void. Jones got an offer from UVA in September and signed in Novermber, joining the Cavs a few months later.
“I had never gotten that type of attention before,” Jones said. “It was amazing to get that from the ACC.”
After Friday’s loss to N.C. State, Virginia sat in NCAA Tournament limbo, not unlike Jones did with football and basketball. The Cavs were 21-11 as the ACC’s fourth seed. Jones sat in the locker room reflecting on his first year as an ACC player, hoping it didn’t end in Greensboro. Jones got in for the final two minutes and hit his only shot from the field.
“We had some big wins,” Jones said. “Hopefully on selection Sunday we’ll get selected. Whether it’s the NCAA Tournament or the NIT I just want the season to continue.”
Jones, a single child, still calls his mom in Kannapolis routinely. His friend Keeon Johnson will be in Charlottes ville soon after signing with the Cavs for football.