Lance Jones will be the first one to admit that his jump shot is still a work in progress this season.
Play-by-play results from Evanston’s first four basketball games would reveal that the Wildkit guard has totaled just 5 field goals that could be considered “jump shots” outside of the paint.
But that statistic isn’t relevant when it comes to his ability to score. With a scoring average of 19 points per game, Jones’ ability to slash to the basket in a halfcourt set and get to the rim in the ETHS transition game have paid big dividends so far.
Jones, who averaged just 6 points a game last year, outscored Glenbrook South’s entire team by a 14-12 margin in the first half of Thursday’s home debut at Beardsley Gym. He finished with a game-high 18 points despite only playing half the game as the Wildkits whipped the Titans 58-35 in the Central Suburban League South division opener for both teams.
Evanston (4-1 overall) pounced on the visitors for a 31-12 halftime lead as Jones netted 4 steals, all of them leading to layups (his own) at the other end of the floor. He set the tone for what head coach Mike Ellis called “ the best defensive game we’ve played to this point in the season” for the defending conference champions.
Jones converted 9-of-16 shots from the floor as the only Evanston player to score in double figures. Blake Peters added 9 points for the winners, who shot exactly 50 percent (24-of-48) from the floor counting all those transition baskets against the plodding Titans (1-4).
To be fair to South, not many teams have players who can keep up with Jones in the open court.
“I remember a guy named Sean Dockery who played for Chicago Julian, an athletic, slashing guard who played like Lance does,” said Ellis. “Dockery was not a phenomenal shooter, either, but he made a lot of plays and he ended up getting a scholarship to Duke playing like that. What Lance can do at the defensive end will only help his offense, and it will help the other guys, too. He can shoot it, but so can our other guys, and we want to be balanced as a team.
"He's scoring a lot in transition, but you never know how those plays are going to end or who’s going to end up with the ball. He just has to make the right plays, and he’s made the effort to put himself out in front of everyone and play full-court basketball. We haven’t had an athletic lead guard like that here in several years, and he’s one of the most athletic guards I’ve ever coached.”
“I’m definitely going to keep working on my shot, but right now I’m just going with the flow,” Jones said. “Right now my jump shot isn’t there, so I have to do the next best thing and that’s attack the rim, be a leader and be a distributor who finds the open man on the fast break.
“I feel like my defense has been smarter this year and I’m not reaching as much, I’m staying in front of my man more. I know if I bring good defensive intensity, I’ll get some stops and we’ll be running. We don’t waste time once we get those stops.”
Jones tallied 6 points in the first quarter, beating the Titans down the floor 3 times in transition, and the Wildkits never looked back after taking a 12-5 lead at the end of the period. The dynamic junior added 8 more points in the last 4 minutes of the first half to help put the game out of reach of GBS.
“A lot of us are still learning the discipline of defense, but this was the best defensive game we’ve played to this point,” Ellis praised. “For the first time, I saw some of same intensity on the defensive end of the floor like we’ve worked on in practice.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.