Christian Jones impressing in practice, could be sleeper of class

Tim Dimas

St. John's can finally run competitive practices, and Christian Jones has proven to be most consistent of the newcomers thus far.

When you consider St. John's incoming class, you immediately think about JaKarr Sampson, Chris Obekpa, and Orlando Sanchez. They're the names you've heard about in the papers and on the blogs. Hype spreads in the offseason.

But someone you haven't heard as much about is Christian Jones, the 6'7'', 228 lb. forward out of Florida's IMG Academy. He was a rather late addition to Steve Lavin's second consecutive strong recruiting class, announcing his commitment in late June and signing in July.

When Jones, originally from Arlington, Texas, announced his verbal commitment to the Johnnies, it came virtually out of nowhere. Though he received offers from Marquette and Baylor, he chose the Red Storm without many casual observers knowledgeable of the level of interest from both sides. Christian Jones was a true mystery recruit.

Turn the clock forward four months. Jones sits confidently at a small table alongside teammate Jamal Branch, taking questions from the reporters at St. John's Media Day. His words and his demeanor convey that he feels as if he belongs there.

And you know what? It's certainly beginning to look like he does.

Jones has flown well under the radar of media and fans throughout the lead-up to the season, and his role with this young team may still be very unclear. But he will certainly be in the mix to receive significant minutes of playing time.

"I really don't know [why my recruitment went under the radar]," Jones told the Rumble on Tuesday. "I did think that I was probably an undersized post player. When I went to IMG, my ball handling and shooting got better, which boosted my recruiting."

There really isn't much reason to have looked over Jones except for his lack of high school/ AAU publicity, come to think of it. His build and length makes him a viable rebounder and option in the post in the Big East.

And that's not all. Jones claims that he is comfortable playing anywhere between the 2 and 5-positions on the floor. When you ask him who he compares his game to, he'll say Carmelo Anthony.

"He's tall at 6'8'', he's bigger, he can shoot, and he's a leader," said Jones. "There are similarities in some of the aspects of my game to his."

Lavin says that, with the team's new found depth, he will have the option to put a significantly tall lineup on the floor at any given time. St. John's can play anywhere between a four-guard set to a four-forward set, which would include Jones.

"I have been spending time at different positions in practice," Jones continued. "I can say that I can play strong and out-power people better, but I have no problem playing along the perimeter if needed."

Jones has shown in practice that he is versatile and diversely able to switch roles. But even in doing so, he has proven to be the most consistent of the newcomers, according to Lavin. A different player stands out each day, but Jones keeps on even keel.

There is often a noticeable difference in refinement between a freshman out of high school and a player who spent a year at prep school. Jones says his time at IMG prepared him for the rigors of the college game, and from the early returns, it seems to be the truth.

Many publications have tabbed him as the sleeper for St. John's, and even among all of the newcomers in the Big East. But, still, he remains just that - a sleeper.

Perhaps after a few games, people will realize that they should have believed the hype with Christian Jones. It's early. There's plenty of time to jump on the bandwagon.

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