Report Card 2016: Delante Jones

THE NUMBERS

Minutes
MPG: 33.2
% Minutes: 79.8

Offense
Points: 12ppg
O-rating: 94.2
E-FG: 49.8%
Two-point shooting: 46.4%
3-point shooting: 36.8%
FT shooting: 69.8%
Assist rate: 13.7% (1.8 apg)
Turnover rate: 21.6%

Defense
Rebounding: 3.6 rpg
Defensive reb %: 10.8%

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STRENGTHS
As the season progressed, Jones became more comfortable in Mike Brennan's Princeton offense and got to the point of being considered the go-to guy in late-game situations. Never was this more evident than when the floor was spaced for Jones to drive, poised, for the game-winning layup at Holy Cross in AU's third-to-last regular-season game.

Jones' overall numbers bear out how he became the focal point of the Eagles' patient, passing approach. He used 23.6% of AU's possessions, most on the team of the Eagles' core players (Paris Maragkos' rate is a team-high 30.8%, which might be why his playing time declined -- throwing to him was a black hole).

Early in the season, Jones was simply a shooter. Four of his five double-digit scoring games in nonconference play revolved around him making at least two 3-pointers (his favorite spot was the right wing).

In early January after one of the low points of the nine-game losing streak -- a 56-37 home loss to Colgate -- Mike Brennan said he thought Jones and the other freshmen looked worn out and needed some rest. Things didn't improve right away for Jones or the Eagles, who lost four more in a row, but improvements in Jones' game soon became clear.

More attacking the rim. A precocious ability to shift his body in ways to get whistles and get to the free-throw line. Jones transformed himself from an outside shooter to a multi-pronged offensive threat in a manner of games, becoming the first AU freshman in at least a decade to score 23 points in back-to-back games, and scoring in double figures in 15 of AU's last 16 games.

Jones shot a team-best (among rotation players) 67.2 % at the rim for the season, per hoop-math.com, and his 47.4% FTA/FGA was second only to Charlie Jones.

Jones attempted at least five free throws in 12 of those final 16 games, of which AU won nine. Jones' FT rate was ninth in the Patriot League.

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ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Jones' Rookie of the Year campaign in the Patriot League has AU fans salivating about his four-year potential, and rightfully. Jones is smooth, can score in multiple ways, and has clutch genes. That much is clear.

Offensively, can he improve his mid-range game? Jones shot just 32.3% on mid-range jumpers, per hoop-math.com. As more and more teams make him the number one priority in scouting reports, they'll run him off the 3-point line and crowd the paint. Can Jones shoot better with his silky release in the middle area?

And can he get better at distributing and not turning it over? Jones' 13.7% assist rate was toward the bottom of the Eagles, and he often had his head down on drives before trying last-second passes that led to turnovers and fastbreaks on the other end. Jones' 21.6% turnover rate was 12th highest in the Patriot League, and his 2.6 giveaways per game was tops for the Eagles. Improved vision and ball-handling should be an offseason priority for Jones.

Brennan spoke often in February about Jones' overall improvement, and that included the defensive end. As conference play wound down, he had fewer and fewer breakdowns and lost switches. Still, if Jones is to become a first-team all-league player, he must make playing sound defense a priority. Too often, he was caught out of position. The only Eagles with worse defensive rebounding percentages were guards James Washington and Jalen Rhea.

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GRADE: A

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QUOTABLE
“We recruited him for a reason. We knew he was gonna be good, and he’s been doing that every game. He’s been getting to the rim, scoring, shooting, scoring every kind of way. Obviously at the end of games it’s different, you’re going to the hole, the other team’s not trying to foul you so it’s a little different. But still to have a guy to be able to do it and be successful and he’s a freshman, and to be able to score layup, floater, behind a guy, it’s hard to do. He works every day. He works his tail off every day in practice. He’s gotten better at literally everything. We’ve just got to keep throwing stuff at him, keep working at it.”

-- Mike Brennan, Feb. 13

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QUICK TAKE
Jones will emerge from the summer much more muscular, a better ballhandler, defender and rebounder. He'll struggle a bit initially on the offensive end without the quick cutting and passing Jesse Reed and Marko Vasic, but freshman Sa'eed Nelson will help relieve some of the pressure and Jones will develop into an all-league player as a sophomore.