Conor Hockett

Through the first eight games of the season, it seems Jarrod Jones has been in the middle of every strong performance by the Ball State men's basketball team.

Consistency has been the backbone for Jones. Ball State is off to a 5-3 start behind the 14.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game from its starting center.

Coach Billy Taylor said Jones played well in all but one game this season, a loss against Alaska-Anchorage. Despite what Taylor said, the big man tallied a double-double in that game.

"He's strung a number of good performances together in a row, if you take the Anchorage game out," Taylor said. "He's scoring the ball on the block, been very efficient in the painted area and hitting his jump shots."

Jones said he knows the team needs his scoring output, but his focus this season has been hitting the backboards. His rebounding margin is up two from last year's numbers, which has led to his team-leading five double-doubles.

"I've felt a sense of urgency to rebound more out there with a shortage in our rotation," Jones said. "I think the guards notice when we are working hard on the defensive end and get rebounds, and they usually reward us on offense."

Foul trouble plagued Jones early in the season and limited his time on the court. Over the past two games, however, he played at least thirty minutes.

With forwards Matt Kamieniecki, Mo Hubbard and Jay Copeland all battling injuries, frontline options are slim. Jones knows he needs to be smart defensively.

"I've been trying to make some better decisions out there on defense," Jones said. "Trying to not do too much on defense to the point where I'm doing something where I'm going to get a foul."

Whether it's the experience over the last two years or the addition of more shooters on the perimeter, Taylor said he sees Jones' maturing in the way he plays.

"Against DePaul, I thought one of the great plays of the game was Jarrod driving and kicking it to Jesse Berry wide open in the corner for a three," Taylor said. "That's the growth in Jarrod's game that I've seen this year. Yes he's a scorer, but he can also create offense for us by finding teammates."