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Good Not Enough for Bulldogs' Idris Jones

February 09, 1989|MITCH POLIN | Times Staff Writer

There was nothing wrong with the way Idris Jones of the Pasadena High basketball team performed as a junior.

He averaged a team-leading 12.6 points at guard and won All-Pacific League second-team honors.

Not bad for a lot of players. Only Jones was convinced that he could do better.

So, no sooner had his junior season ended than Jones set out to perfect his skills.

"I worked on my ball handling and shooting, staying late after practice," Jones said.

Long after most of the other players had left, Jones practiced, usually with father Michael nearby.

"We would go all the time," he said. "(My father) would help me with shooting. Every other day we'd shoot 500 shots, do full-court dribbling drills and work (on dribbling) with my left hand.

"I'd take the same shot from the corner, the same shot from the key. We tried to get the form down on my shot so it would be repetition."

Jones said part of his motivation came from playing alongside top high school players on spring and summer league teams, especially the Slam 'N Jam League traveling all-star squad last spring.

"All the guys I played with were that way, like Tracy Murray (of Glendora High) and Harold Miner (of Inglewood), so I wanted to raise my level."

As his senior season approaches conclusion, it appears that the hard work of the 17-year-old Jones is paying dividends.

He is leading the Bulldogs in scoring. Only this time the slender 6-3 and 170-pounder is averaging 20.7 points and about five rebounds, four steals and three assists.

His development has gone hand-in-hand with the transformation of the Bulldogs into one of the top teams in the CIF Southern Section. After an 8-14 season last year, Pasadena is 20-2 and ranked No. 1 in the CIF 5-A Division.

"I thought this was a real special team in the summer," he said. "I knew we could do well if things fell for us.

"I think we've surprised a lot of teams, besides ourselves, in taking two tournaments. We're kind of a Cinderella team because nobody expected us to be there."

Jones played an important role in three tournaments, earning most valuable player honors as Pasadena won the Bishop Amat and Glendale tournaments and making the all-tournament team at the W.A. Goodman L.A. Classic.

Pasadena Coach Bill Duwe plays down the importance of one player: "What's made us successful is we have four guys doing a job offensively. We don't always have to rely on him to carry the load. Like the rest of the team, he's able to focus himself and play within the structure of our team concept."

But the coach was quick to add that Jones is not a run-of-the-mill player.

"He's probably as complete a player as I've ever coached," Duwe said. "There have been some very good players here and he's right up there with them. He's got a great attitude, he's willing to learn and he's coachable. Plus he's also a good student. He's just an all-around type of player."

Duwe added: "On the nights when he isn't shooting well, he influences the game in other areas. A lot of scorers are just scorers, but he can do a lot of other things."

Such as play defense, a key ingredient in Jones' game: "I guess I've always had coaches who stressed defense. So I've worked harder on that, plus my dad has worked a lot with me on that.

"If someone tries to stop me from scoring, I know I can score from the defensive end. If I keep playing well defensively, I always know the offense will come."

Jones strengthened his reputation as a defensive standout against many of the top prep players in the nation at the Five-Star Basketball Camp in Pittsburgh last July. He was named the best defensive player and made the camp all-star team.

Duwe said it is total ability that has made Jones a prize among college recruiters.

"After my 10th-grade year, I played Slam 'N Jam that summer and then during my junior year I was getting a lot of letters," he recalled.

He said the attention increased considerably after he competed in the Slam 'N Jam Spring League last spring.

"I was on the traveling team and played in Las Vegas, Kentucky and Arizona," Jones said. "I got a lot of attention after traveling to Las Vegas over Easter."

Recruited by numerous NCAA Division I programs on the West Coast, he narrowed his choices to USC, Loyola Marymount, UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State before opting for Santa Barbara last November.

"At first I thought it would be (difficult), but after I started making my trips and looking at the teams and my educational opportunities at each place, I thought that was the best place for me to be."

He said it was the up-and-coming appearance of the Santa Barbara program that attracted him.

"They were really on the rise," Jones said. "They beat UNLV twice last year, and I love the community support they always have. The fans come out and they always have a packed house. It's fun to play in that kind of situation."

Duwe said, "I think that by his sophomore year he's going to be an outstanding college player."

Jones is happy with the improvement he has made but, just as he felt at the end of last season, he is hardly satisfied.

At 170 pounds, Jones knows he will have to add weight. He hopes to weigh 180 or 185 during his first year at Santa Barbara.

"I want to gain a lot more weight so I can play as a freshman," he said. "I've always been kind of thin, but now I'm going to have to beef up. Watching these college games, I can see they're a lot more physical."

He says he will also work on ball handling in hope of making the transition from off guard, his position at Pasadena, to point guard.

Jones has no doubt about being able to play well in college: "It's a lot of work, but once I get my ball handling down and work on my weight, I think I can become a competitive ballplayer."

Judging from his past, Jones will not settle for anything less.

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