Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 31, 2014
STEPHENVILLE, Texas — A lot has happened to Teven Dewayne Jones in a short time.
Right now, he’s in steamy Texas, at Division II Tarleton State. That’s a long way from Kannapolis, an even longer way from the University of Virginia where he spent 21/2 basketball seasons in the ACC.
“When you’re a competitor and you’re not playing it takes a toll on you,” Jones explained in a phone interview. “I felt like I helped Virginia, but I also knew I could’ve helped more. As far as my basketball career, I knew if I stayed, there was not a good chance to play. That was the biggest part of my decision. I want to show what I can do.”
Jones aspires to a pro career and while you might look at his Virginia stats and chuckle when you hear that, it’s not wise to sell Jones short. Not many people thought he’d play D-I basketball, much less in the ACC. But he’s hurdled numerous obstacles to get to where he is now, and there’s no doubt he’ll put in the work to keep getting better.
Just three summers ago, Jones was a receiver in the East-West All-Star football game. As a senior at A.L. Brown he’d caught 40 passes for 685 yards and nine TDs for a team that mostly ran the ball. That all-star game was his last fling with the gridiron before he headed to Virginia’s Fishburne Military School for a post-graduate hoops program.
Jones’ grades were never an issue, but his 6-foot height was. He’d been a shooter in high school, smooth and deadly. The scorebooks the final three games of his prep career read 28-36-20, and that was against three stout opponents. He averaged 21.6 points per game as a senior.
But Division I schools aren’t in the market for 6-foot shooting guards, so Jones headed to Fishburne to prove he could play point guard.
Jones had barely unpacked his bags at Fishburne when Virginia saw him. Virginia offered. Jones committed.
This was the 2011-12 hoops season, and with injuries and transfers, Virginia was struggling to put 10 on the court to practice. Jones was asked if he’d enroll at Virginia a semester early. He volunteered to do that, even though his learning curve was accelerating a little too fast. That first semester he spent at Virginia taking lumps in practice served as his redshirt “year.”
When the 2012-13 season came around, it looked like everything had worked out for Jones. It’s easy to forget now, but he started nine games as a redshirt freshman — the Cavaliers went 8-1 in his starts — and played in 30.
Jones only averaged 2.9 points per game, but he shot accurately — 37 percent on 3s, 80 percent on free throws. He enjoyed a 13-point game and he scored six in a win against UNC that may have been the happiest day of his life. Besides contributing offensively, Jones developed a reputation as a tenacious defender.
That 2012-13 Virginia team was pretty good, really tough at home (20-2), but nothing special away from Charlottesville. Virginia won two NIT games. Against both Norfolk State and St. John’s, Jones hopped off the bench to nail game-changing, energizing 3-pointers.
Jones felt good about his freshman year, and there was reason to believe his role would be at least as important as a sophomore.
But it wasn’t. Freshman point guard Landon Perrantes emerged as a star, and even when Perrantes rested, shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon slid over and took the point. It was hard to argue with what coach Tony Bennett’s plan. Virginia went from being pretty good to being historically great. That was a 30-win team, the ACC champion and ranked among the nation’s elite.
Last in the shuffle was Jones. His playing time diminished, and then it disappeared. He didn’t play at all in six of Virginia’s last 12 games. For the season, his minutes dropped from 13 per game to 4 per game.
His attitude stayed positive. He became one of the best bench cheerleaders the ACC has ever seen. Often, he was a jumping, dancing, crowd-pumping bundle of sunshine.
“My role wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but that was my role, and I embraced it,” Jones said. “I was the hype man for the team. Whether I was playing or not, I tried my best to wake the team up whenever it needed energy. I tried to get them rolling.”
His season highlight basically was a steal and dunk against Virginia Tech. He got so excited he received a tech against Tech.
“It felt great to get that dunk because it was my first one in college,” Jones said. “I got a technical, but it still felt good to see and hear people go crazy.”
For all of Virginia’s success — and make no mistake, Jones was genuinely happy for his school, coaches and teammates — he couldn’t see going through that again.
Players want to play, and Jones had spent enough time cheering.
In early April, Virginia announced Jones was transferring. On his last day in Charlottesville, his teammates threw a surprise party for him. That’s how much they liked him.
Appalachian State seemed like a great fit, and it was reported in May that’s where Jones was headed.
The problem with ASU or any other D-I school was that Jones would have to sit out a year and then would’ve had only a year and a half of eligibility after that.
But he would have two years of eligibility at a Division II school and could play immediately. That made D-II the more attractive option.
Jones connecting with Tarleton State wasn’t coincidence. A.L. Brown graduate Avery Patterson, who transferred from St. John’s, was quite a player for Tarleton State. Patterson was an all-star and the leading scorer for the 2008 Tarleton State Texans who reached the Sweet Sixteen in the D-II national tournament.
“Avery called the coach (Lonn Reisman) and let him know about me,” Jones said. “I visited and liked the atmosphere. It’s a long way, but it felt like home.”
Jones had offers from Winston-Salem State and USC-Aiken that were a lot closer to home. He also visited Central Missouri, the D-II defending national champs.
But Tarleton offered an outstanding coach (Resiman has won 558 games in 26 seasons), a strong team (Tarleton is coming off a 28-3 season) and an opening at point guard.
Chuck Guy, a D-I transfer, was the leader for Tarleton last season, but he graduated. So the opportunity is there for Jones to step right in.
“I believe I’ve landed here for a reason,” Jones said. “I’ve got to believe that.”
It sounds like he’s in the right place.
“Signing a player like Teven keeps us in position to continue contending for national championships,” Reisman told Brad Keith of Stephenville’s TheFlash.Today. “We already know he’s an outstanding player who brings great talent, but he also brings leadership to our team at a position where it is critical for us right now. He’s an outstanding young man and a good student who will graduate from here and set an example for other players to follow.”
Jones is giving up the prestigious Virginia diploma that he was on his way to earning, but he’s thought that through.
“Education is important and I had a great opportunity at Virginia,” Jones said. “But Tarleton State is a good school and I’ll still get a degree in business and communications just as I would have at Virginia. Business is more about who you know than what you know, and I’ve made a lot of friends and a lot of connections. I’m going to be all right after basketball.”
But for now it’s mostly about basketball. That’s why Jones finds himself in the heart of Texas, a little less than two hours from Dallas. He lifts, he runs and he prepares for the most important basketball season of his life.
“A lot of people back home have asked me if I expect to be on the court,” Jones said. “I’m not cocky, but I do speak my mind. I didn’t come down here not to play.”