Wyking Jones, St. Bernard High's All-CIF forward, has many qualities that should serve him well when he plays for Loyola Marymount University next season.
He can shoot, rebound and play defense and demonstrated those abilities against elite prep players at the Superstar Basketball Camp at UC Santa Barbara last summer.
But he has another asset that should make him eminently suitable to play in Loyola Marymount's run-and-gun attack, which tries to get off a shot every seven seconds or less and has set national scoring records.
"He can run forever," Viking Coach Jim McClune said.
"Wyking has tremendous stamina, and there is no diminishing of his performance as the game goes on," McClune said. "He averages 31 minutes for us in a 32-minute game."
Jones will need all the endurance he can muster to fit in at Loyola. The team's breakneck pace most recently allowed the Lions to set an NCAA Division I scoring record with 186 points against U.S. International on Jan. 5. That surpassed their previous mark of 181, also set against USIU.
But the possibility of running up and down the court for 39 minutes in a 40-minute college game is a prospect that Jones takes in stride. "I'll fit in with it, I think; I feel I will," he said.
He was so eager to get going with the Lions that he had intended to sign a binding letter with the university in November. But there was a hitch.
It appears that a member of the Loyola coaching staff was instrumental in securing a job for Jones at the A. C. Green Basketball Camp last summer, according to Bruce Meyers, Loyola sports information director.
When Hillock discovered what had happened and realized it was an apparent violation, though inadvertent, of NCAA regulations, he asked the NCAA for an official ruling, Meyers said.
Meyers said that Loyola is "pretty confident" that the NCAA will decide that the infringement was not intentional and that the Lions will be able to
sign Jones after the end of the season. Loyola expects to hear from the NCAA in the spring.
Although St. Bernard is not doing as well as some predicted, Jones continues to steam along.
He is averaging about 21 points and eight rebounds a game, but St. Bernard, expected by some to be a contender for the Southern Section Division III championship, has struggled.
The Vikings had a 4-8 record before Mission League play but are 5-1 in league play. Three of the team's pre-league losses were to some of the nation's stronger teams in Chicago's Windy City tournament, which may explain why St. Bernard doesn't have a better record.
But the Vikings have also been involved in several close games against Mission League opponents, a good indication that the team may not be as strong as some observers thought, including McClune.
Although 10 players from last season's team graduated in June, McClune had reason to be optimistic because three starters, all on the front line, had returned. The three veterans are Jones, Chris Keldorf and Rick Famuyima.
But the team's three point guards, who all played with the junior varsity last season, have combined to average less than 10 points a game and have demonstrated their inexperience. Jones' game may have suffered this season because he has taken on too much responsibility, McClune said.
McClune said that the team has not always been up to par because he has used 11 different starting lineups, trying to find the right combination.
McClune said he thinks that the 6-foot-7, 192-pound Jones will probably play forward in college and will do well although he has played in the post most of the time for St. Bernard. He said that Jones got good training for college basketball by playing in practice against Ed Stokes, the 7-foot Arizona sophomore who prepped at St. Bernard. He added, however, that Jones needs to do more weight training to add muscle to play at the Division I level.
Jones said that he intends to increase his weight training and try to beef up after the season, but that he doesn't think that Loyola wants him to look like a football lineman, either.
"I don't think they really rely on that to much," he said. "They play so fast. It's not really a slowdown, physical game; you don't have time for it."
He said that Loyola wants him to play either power or small forward and that he prefers the latter position. "I'll see how it works out when I get there, see which (position) feels more comfortable."
St. Monica High Coach Leo Klemm, whose team contended with St. Bernard in the Camino Real League before the Vikings left for the Mission League this season, said that Jones should become a good college player.
"He's fairly athletic for a big guy because he's wiry," Klemm said. "Some big men have to play with their backs to the basket, but (Jones) can catch the ball at the high post and is a triple threat to pass, shoot or put it on the floor.
"The typical low-post player has to catch it and power (the ball) up, so he is more limited. If (Jones) continues to develop, he can maintain play in the low and high posts."
Klemm said that he cannot think of any major fault with Jones' game but that he will probably have to refine his ballhandling so he can demonstrate that he can play guard and forward in college.
Jones said that he is willing to do what is necessary to improve his game and that he never tires of basketball, although he has been playing it since he was in the fourth grade.
"The practices are what I get tired of," he said. "I almost always have a good time at the games."