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Player in Review: Christian Jones, who will transfer to UNLV

Christian Jones moves on to UNLV, but had a great junior year with the Johnnies.

Christian Jones at the basket Wendell Cruz

Unheralded out of Texas, Christian Jones’s career looked so promising - at least in the abstract. Jones came to the Red Storm with athletic ability and a knowledge that he needed work. He got some early minutes, and even started his first game, and then... essentially was not on the court for two years, despite an often-thin bench.

He averaged 5.3 minutes per game while sitting out half of the conference matches in 2013 and 2015, with a redshirt year in between.

The arrival of Chris Mullin was a second chance. "I'm just trying to get on the floor," Jones said at St. John’s Media Day last season. And get on the floor, he did.

Jones earned 25 minutes per game overall, and 22 minutes per game in conference play.

Christian Jones played 14 minutes or more in every single game for last year’s Red Storm, making 19 starts out of the 32 games. Along the way, he might not have shown himself to be the low-post player the team needed, but he had some flashes of excitement, a willingness to be a big body inside, and was one of the team’s best rebounders.

Congratulations to Jones (eight points, five rebound average last season), who parlayed that play and his grad transfer status into a scholarship at UNLV, a team with minutes to spare after a mass exodus after the end of the season, and a new coach in Marvin Menzies with a long track record of success. Jones will be available to play immediately as he starts graduate studies.

Christian Jones selected stats, 2015-16 season [mp = "minutes played"]

Player
g
mp
2p%
ft%
trb
pts
Christian Jones
32
25.2
0.480
0.608
5.2
8.4

Christian Jones all games, 2015-16 season [glossary of terms]

Player
orb%
drb%
blk%
tov%
usg%
Christian Jones
5.8
16.7
2.2
18.6
19.4

Three things about Christian Jones

Christian Jones loves the mid-range game. Jones spent the evening of March 9th in Madison Square Garden trying to carry St. John’s to a victory over Marquette. It was a strange sight; the team hadn’t seen this kind of production from Jones ever, and it wasn’t like he was taking easy shots. No, Jones was coming off of screens and shooting mid-range jumpers, and hitting them with more accuracy than he had been all season. He was on fire, even without getting deep position.

Marquette, of course, won by eight. And the game itself, a 101-93 win for the Golden Eagles, lacked defense. The losing team’s offensive rating was 116, the second highest for the Johnnies all season (they were only better on offense against Chaminade).

But watching Jones strafe the Marquette squad did give a hint that he could be a go-to scorer for stretches.

The low-post game is a work in progress. One fascinating aspect of Jones’s game is that it’s hard to see what he envisions for himself - or what his coaches envision for him. He has claimed to be a wing, but isn’t a great outside shooter. He has the body and strength of a post, but was awkward with his post scoring.

And his best ability - pure power athleticism - may have been wasted at times on a team that couldn’t get stops and run outs the other way.

Jones shot 48% on the year - respectable, but not a game-changer inside. And he drew 71 fouls on his 217 shots - a 33% ratio that indicates that Jones wasn’t so difficult or crafty to defend that opponents needed to foul him.

He scored in double digits 13 times, but also scored five or fewer points ten times - including against Incarnate Word.

There’s a good rebounder in there! Christian Jones was always frustrating in his limited time because, on a Red Storm team that needed rebounding, Jones didn’t have that magnetic attraction to the carom on the defensive or offensive end. NOT getting rebounds can owe to many factors, but a lack of battle and positioning is often one of those factors.

Not that Jones turned into Ben Wallace last season, but his rebounding efforts were far better. His boxing out was often excellent, he used his body to at least try to carve out space; not every game was a gem, but ten defensive rebounds against Providence, eight against Georgetown - that’s a player that filled an open wound of a need for the Red Storm last season, defensive rebounding.

Highlight reel

Looking ahead

Christian Jones gets to follow in Chris Obekpa’s footsteps and move to Las Vegas for the year. Unlike Obekpa, Jones should actually play some games at UNLV. After all, he is immediately eligible.

Jones brings the unique experience of being a leader to young/ new players with him out west; head coach Marvin Menzies will appreciate that. And he’ll appreciate a player with experience in the Big East, two coaching staffs of experience, and a sneaky good jump shot that could draw opponents away from the paint, if Jones can extend his range. (Teams will often let a player take long jump shots inside the line with little defensive effort - it’s a preferable shot to a layup.)

Congratulations on graduating St. John’s, and for a strong year for the Johnnies in a trying season.