Indiana’s Verdell Jones runs down the tipoff to start the second game against Illinois. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
With the season complete and the offseason officially started for the 2010-11 Indiana Hoosiers, The Hoosier Scoop will have a breakdown of each individual player’s season and what he needs to focus on during the offseason. The second player in the series is junior guard Verdell Jones.
2010-11 STATS: 12.5 points per game (44.8 percent FG, 29.8 percent 3Pt), 3.3 rebounds, 89 assists, 83 turnovers.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: When Jones was on, he was the player that made Indiana’s offense go. No one on the team was better off the dribble and he continued to show that he has one of the best mid-range games in the Big Ten Conference. When he was attacking and making smart decisions, he could be lethal on ball screens, with the ability to go to the hole, knock down a mid-range jumper or find shooters on the wing. He had plenty of struggles, some of them caused by knee inflammation that sapped him of some of his explosiveness, but he was still the team’s second leading scorer and scored double-digit points in 12 of Indiana’s last 13 regular season games.
THE TO-DO LIST
- Become more sound with the ball. Jones actually cut down on his turnovers a bit toward the end of the season with just eight in the final five games, but his season total of 83 was still tied for fourth highest in the Big Ten and the three guys who gave the ball away more — Michigan’s Darius Morris, Illinois’ Demetri McCamey and Iowa’s Bryce Cartwright — were ranked 1-2-3 in the conference in assists. Jones was 14th. Too often he could be seen dribbling at the top of the key with his head down or with no particular direction, and too often he dribbled into traffic and lost the handle. It’s difficult to tell how Indiana will continue to split point guard duties between Jones and sophomore guard Jordan Hulls, but if Jones wishes to be the primary ball handler, he needs to get better at handling the ball.
- Get better from beyond the 3-point arc. Jones takes and makes enough 3-pointers to require teams to defend him that far, but not enough to be reliable. He shot under 30 percent from beyond the arc for the second-straight season, and he’s under 30 percent for his career. Though a critical part of Crean’s offense is a point guard who can attack off the dribble, it’s almost as important that the point guard be dangerous from beyond the 3-point arc. Especially with Hulls getting more attention on the perimeter and struggling to hit as many 3-pointers under duress, the Hoosiers will need another one of their top perimeter scorers to get points from beyond the arc.
- Score more from the free throw line. Jones’ numbers at the charity stripe took a significant hit in 2010-11. He shot 116 free throws, down from 190 as a sophomore, and made 78, his percentage dipping from 75.8 to 67.2. Considering that only Watford went to the basket more than Jones, the Hoosiers’ needed him to get to the line more, and they certainly needed him to convert more once he got there. Jones had never been automatic, but he was much closer in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
- Improve perimeter defense. One of Indiana’s biggest problems this season is that it’s best perimeter scorers and best perimeter defenders were not one in the same. Jones wasn’t the Hoosiers’ biggest liability and he was decent in transition defense, but he needs to get better against the dribble. Adding strength to his lean frame would help in this category.
- Figure out what his role is, once and for all, and fulfill it. This is obviously an abstract criticism and without a view into the Indiana locker room, it’s difficult to tell who ought to be to blame for it, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus in and around the program as to what overarching role Jones has and should have with Indiana. Next year, he will be one of five seniors, three of whom will be on scholarship, to represent the first four-year players to play under coach Tom Crean at IU. Jones, already a 1,000-point scorer, is by far the most statistically accomplished of the group and also the most vocal. All of that surface information would suggest he would be the clear choice to be the team’s captain, unquestioned leader and go-to perimeter scorer next season. There were times throughout this season that Crean spoke of Jones as though he already was the captain, comparing his loss for several games with knee inflammation to losing the quarterback in football, and praising him for stepping up his leadership from the bench in those games. Jones, however, seemed to be respected by his teammates as a peer but not necessarily revered as a superior. He called out his teammates for mistakes on the floor, but at least once had a teammate fire back. He often wanted the ball late in games and tried to take over when he had the opportunity but didn’t have the sort of success that would earn him status as a go-to-guy. His teammates never seemed to complain that he was taking too many shots, but they didn’t necessarily defer to him either. So what’s the point? Jones essentially has to figure out, either on his own or with help of the coaches, if he will be IU’s captain and go-to perimeter scorer next season or not and fulfill whatever role he ends up with, either commanding his team’s reverence and earning the right to take the shots that count or deferring somewhat and settling into a different role, as Jeremiah Rivers selflessly did this season for the Hoosiers’ benefit. Unlike Rivers, Jones would certainly still be an important cog in the offense regardless, but perhaps not approach every late-game situation as his moment. One way or the other, it would be best for IU and Jones if he either captures or cedes captainship early so he and the rest of the team can proceed accordingly.