by C.J. Bowles
Husky men's basketball head coach Lorenzo Romar says it best: "[Bobby Jones is] the model of the type of player that we want here at the University of Washington, in terms of his unselfish team attitude, mental toughness and his academic standing."
Roughly midway through the 2003-04 Washington men's basketball season, the 6-foot-6 Jones has more than backed up Romar's preseason comments, leading the team in scoring at 12.3 points per game, and in rebounds per game at 6.2. According to Jones, however, his tenacity and unselfishness is simply the product of a system - a street system.
Growing up in Compton, Calif., of which he says, "the stereotype is what it should be," Jones' tougher-than-nails attitude served him both on and off the basketball court. Over the past two decades, Compton's reputation has been one of fear and intimidation, home to some of the most powerful and dangerous gangs in the nation. Jones has taken his childhood experiences and transferred them to the basketball court, where he plays the game with an intensity and aggression few can match.
"That's what made me who I was back home," he says. "That's what I was known for, but when I came here I had to prove myself all over again. Now people are just starting to get to know what kind of player I am."
When Jones steps off the hardwood, however, it's a different story.
"Off the court I'm pretty shy, only talking to people I know," he says. "I'm not very outgoing, but on the court you can't tell that, I look like a lunatic out there. It shows how much I love this game."
Jones' love for basketball was discovered early in life, the product of yet another system - this time, a family one.
"I started playing when I was six years old, and my parents made a court in the backyard for me," Jones says. "They always wanted me to play sports and they had an idea I was going to be tall, so they figured I might as well use my height to my advantage."
Jones also ran track as a youth, even winning a national age-group title while in elementary school, but soon found he his enjoyment of track and field paled in comparison to his passion for basketball, and dropped the sport as he prepared to enter high school.
With Jones' focus fully on basketball, his skills began developing, and so did his body. As Jones grew taller his stat line grew longer, leading to a junior season at Dominguez High School in which Jones averaged 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals per game. Dominguez, which featured not only Jones but also eventual No. 2 NBA pick Tyson Chandler, captured its third-straight CIF Division-III title that season, but Jones was still unsatisfied.
Following the season, Jones transferred to Long Beach Poly High School, and promptly led the Jackrabbits to a 30-4 record by averaging 19 points and nine rebounds per game. As the hardware began to roll in, scouts took notice, and Jones quickly narrowed his options. Colleges from the ACC and Big East highlighted the list; Washington failed to register even a blip on Jones' radar.
Late in the signing period, Jones was informed by his father informed him that former Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar was accepting the head coaching job at Washington, and suggested that his son may want to check out the UW before making his decision.
"I talked to coach Romar and he invited me up for a visit," Jones recalls. "I came up here and really liked it. I didn't really want to stay in California for college, but I wanted to be on the West Coast. No other school offered me that except Washington, so I signed the next day."
Just like that, Romar had his first recruit as the Huskies' head coach, and Jones had a new home.
Jones' first year at UW saw the California earn 15 starts, mostly on the strength of his energized efforts on the defensive end of the floor, a contrast to a team comprised mostly of quick scorers.
"When it comes to motivation, I think a steal or a block is as good as a dunk," Jones says of his passion for defense. "Defense gives us opportunities on offense."
When the dust settled following the up and down, 10-17 season, Jones found himself with five double-doubles and 12 blocks, ninth most ever among UW freshmen.
Now, nearly halfway through his sophomore campaign, Jones is starting to assume a different role for the Dawgs, the role of a leader.
"I want to be someone who leads by example," he says. "I just try to rub some of my intensity off on my teammates. I like to do the little things."
So far Jones is doing more leading than he set out to do. While leading the team in scoring and rebounding, he has scored in double digits in all but two games thus far, including a career-high 19 points in a crucial Husky win at San Diego State.
While Jones worked hard this summer, especially on his jump shot, he credits his teammates for most of his success.
"I definitely worked on my shot this summer, but we have so many good players penetrating on the team, that if you're in the right spot at the right time, you should definitely get a shot," he says.
Jones is also teaching the mostly Seattle-based Huskies an important lesson - don't mess with a man from Compton, especially one with a reputation for intensity.
In the waning moments of Washington's Pac-10 home opener vs. USC, the Trojans held an 86-80 lead and were heading for a comfortable win when, with less than 10 seconds remaining, Trojans guard Errick Craven decided to punctuate the win with a one-handed breakaway jam.
He never made it to the rim.
While most players waited casually for the buzzer to sound, Jones flew down the court and swatted the ball out of Craven's hands, refusing to allow the Trojan to further embarrass the Huskies on their own home court. For Jones' hard-nosed effort, he received an intentional foul, but his message to opponents was clear - there's no such thing as an easy basket.
"When we play USC and UCLA, that's bragging rights when I go back home," Jones says. "I'm from that area, so I want to leave a message to those teams. I never start anything, but if someone is nagging or trying to start something, I'm not going to back down. I'm never going to start something, but I'm definitely going to finish it."
It is not Jones' intent to come off as a dirty player; he simply wants it to be known how much he loves the game.
"When I play basketball I just play the game, I don't think about it too much," he says. "I just get lost in the game."
With two and a half years of Husky hoops left for Jones, there's plenty of time to prove to coach Romar and Husky fans just how much of a model UW player he can be.