Sleeper Watch: Interview with NCAA D2 Prospect KJ Jones II

Post by Brad Winton – Co-Owner/Director of Scouting at Elite Basketball Services/EBS Scouting

Throughout the remainder of the college season/leading up to the NBA Draft we will feature articles and interviews with many draft prospects.

We will also discuss players who may be flying under the radar at the NCAA D1, NCAA D2, and NAIA levels in our Sleeper Watch Series. Today is our first installment of the Sleeper Watch as we take a look at KJ Jones II from Emmanuel College, the leading scorer nationally at the NCAA D2 level.

KJ Jones II
School: Emmanuel College (GA)
Level: NCAA D2
Year: Junior
Height: 6’6
Weight: 203 lbs.
Position: 2/3, 1

PPG: 25.8
RPG: 7.6
APG: 3.4
FG%: 48.6
3FG%: 40.2
FT%: 84
Synergy Points Per Possession: 1.010
EFG%: 52%

Jones, an Atlanta, GA native, only had one offer out of high school and has made the most of that opportunity at Emmanuel. He surpassed the 2,000-career point mark this season and has averaged at least 20 PPG over the last three seasons. Jones has been named to the Bevo Francis Award Watchlist, which is given to the player with the best overall season at the non-D1 level. While Jones leads the country in scoring, he is also an excellent distributor and rebounder who has a good feel for the game.

At 6’6/203 pounds, Jones checks all of the boxes when looking at his physical attributes and versatility on both ends of the floor. He plays all three perimeter positions equally, spends plenty of time at the point, and is often used as the primary ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations. He has shown the ability to score at all three levels, is an aggressive and active cutter away from the ball, and has an excellent touch around the rim with either hand.

Defensively, Jones has the makings of a versatile and switchable defender at the next level due to his unique combination of size, length, mobility, and athleticism. He is active on the glass (7.5 RPG) and has the ability to rebound the ball and initiate the transition break.

Jones has not decided if he will pursue the pro route after this season or return to college for his final year of eligibility. He is solely focused on the remainder of the season and making a post-season run in the NCAA D2 Tournament. Emmanuel is 18-7 on the season, won 11 straight games, and is currently in second place (14-3) in their conference.

Here is our interview with KJ Jones:

Q&A with KJ Jones:

EBS: You’re known for your versatility as a guard and your ability to play all three perimeter positions on both ends. How do you see that versatility helping you at the next level?

KJ Jones: I see the versatility in my game helping me at the next level simply by allowing myself to be available in different positions. At the next level, one of the biggest things you have to do to get on the court is established what separates you. I think versatility is a really big separator. There will be guys that are really skilled and more talented in certain spots, but being a player who is able to produce and thrive in different spots, this will allow for me to increase my chances of getting on the floor. This applies on both offense and defense. My ability to be able to guard different positions gives me more ground for opportunities to get on the court. My ability to operate in different spots will make me a threat on both sides of the ball.

EBS: How are you, your teammates, and your coaches preparing to finish the season strong to prepare for a post-season run?

KJ Jones: As far as my current team, we are sitting in a pretty good position at the 2 seed in our conference. I would say that myself, my teammates, and my coaches are fully focused and locked in on getting ourselves better each day and just taking it one game at a time. We are preparing by watching a lot of film and doing really efficient workouts and practices. Being the leader of the team, I have tried to relay the message to everyone how important each game is and how we have to be locked into what we do great. We have emphasized role identification and I think everyone has been doing an excellent job of being a star in their role. Our main focus right now is to get better each day while still having fun and enjoying this journey together. By doing these things, we think we are putting ourselves in the best position to make a deep tournament run.

EBS: You’re the leading scorer in NCAA D2 basketball. How do you maintain such a high level of performance night after night, and what habits or routines have you developed to help you stay on top?

KJ Jones: The first thing I will say is that it is not easy. One reason it is not easy is because of how teams guard me. It is usually a nightly adjustment because all teams do not guard me the same way. Some nights I see a lot of double teams, some nights I am face-guarded, and other nights I may be played more straight up. It is more of a mental battle than it is a physical battle because each night is different. In addition to this, scoring is one of many tasks I am asked to do at a high level each night which means my drive and focus can’t just be on scoring. Ultimately, I think I am able to perform and score at the level I do so consistently because my focus isn’t just on scoring the ball. I take pride in defense and getting my teammates going first because those are things I can control. I let the game come to me and allow my offense to take care of itself. Some habits that have allowed me to maintain being the nation’s leading scorer include how much sleep I get per night (about 8 hours). Rest is big for me, especially with the minutes that I log. Another habit I have developed is making every rep in a workout game-like so that I am prepared to execute at that level when the game comes. Lastly, a routine that has allowed me to be such an efficient and consistent scorer is shooting different types of shots every single day and valuing shots made in a workout over shots taken. In other words, I usually don’t leave the gym until I have made a certain number of shots.

EBS: What specific skills do you think you need to improve upon in order to succeed at the professional level?

KJ Jones: In order to succeed at the professional level, one of the things I want to continue to improve on is my midrange/mid post-game. I shoot the 3 ball well and can get to the basket, but at the professional level when those are taken away, I want to be able to comfortably get to my in-between game and still be able to get a bucket. I also want to continue to improve my body and be able to compete at a really high level physically. This will enhance my durability and availability and contribute to the longevity of my career as a whole. I would also like to improve on higher-level ball screen reads. Although I play off the ball a good bit in college, I still am involved in a lot of ball screen situations that I want to continue to develop as I merge into my professional career specifically in terms of making the quick, right read.

EBS: What do you believe sets you apart from other players in your position, and what unique qualities do you bring to the court that will make you stand out at the professional level?

KJ Jones: I think one of the things that separates me from other players in my position is the ability to be coached. Although I am considered one of the best players at the level I am currently at, I still crave hard coaching and search for ways I can continue to get better day in and day out. I don’t ever feel like I have arrived or that I am content. Another thing that separates me is my ability to make other people/teammates better. Although I am highly recognized for my scoring ability, I think an extremely underrated part of my game is passing. I think I possess the skill to understand that when it is not the right read for me to score, I can manipulate the defense to create a shot for someone else. I feel like both of these can translate at the professional level. I think another unique quality about myself is my humility. I carry myself in a way that allows myself to continue to grow and learn and do whatever it takes to win. I realize that at the next level I might not be the first, second, or even eighth option. My humility in those situations will allow for me to accept whatever role it is that I am given and do whatever is asked of me to contribute to what the team needs.

EBS: What does your average training routine look like in-season compared to the off-season?

KJ Jones: As far as training in the offseason, it is really intense. I take my workout and recovery routines extremely seriously during this time because I have more time, especially in the summer to focus on those things. I work extremely hard in the offseason to prepare myself for the mental and physical challenges that I know I will face during the season. I usually lift 4 days a week in the offseason while doing on-court stuff 6 days out of the week. I try to use at least one day for yoga/leadership growth and just to mentally recharge. My training during the season I would say is just as frequent but not as intense and taxing on my body. I try to maintain my body and weight throughout the season and I get in the gym to keep my skills sharpened and to get good shooting reps. I view the offseason as a time to really hone in on things I want to get better at whereas, during the season, my training is more focused on what I need to do to stay sharp and what I need to do to help the team.