MEN'S BASKETBALL: Link between Ball State teammates goes beyond court
Randy Davis and Jarrod Jones: players, roommates, friends
It was just another play for Randy Davis and Jarrod Jones.
In the second half of Ball State's win over Central Michigan Jan. 15., Davis dribbled to the left wing and Jones set a screen on his defender. As Davis attacked the paint, Jones rolled off the pick hard toward the baseline. Davis probed the defense before pulling up to dish a pass to Jones. It hit him in stride for a 15-foot jump shot.
The play is called "Side," and it was executed to perfection.
It takes chemistry between Davis and Jones to read and react to the defense. If the opponent rotates to help on Davis, he passes it off. If they don't, it's an easy layup for the Mid-American Conference Player of the Week.
It is a chemistry they've been fine-tuning for close to five years now.
Before coming to Ball State, Jones and Davis played two summers on the same Amateur Athletic Union team called the "SYF Players." This team, based out of Gary, Indiana, is where the two Ball State players got their start together.
Davis said during those summers playing ball together, he and Jones became close.
"It kind of started when I first got on the AAU team. I think it was my sophomore [season] heading into junior year when that happened," Davis said. "Since then, we've kind of always kept in contact. When we came back [the following season], I think we only got to play in two tournaments before he got hurt."
Davis said he and Jones also played on the Indiana All-Stars team in high school, so each experience brought them closer both on and off the court.
When it came time to decide where to play in college, Davis said Jones wasn't an afterthought in his decision.
Jones chose Ball State before Davis made his official visit. But Davis said that same day, his AAU coach called to say Jones had committed.
"I actually had a visit lined up to come here and I was talking to them [already]," Davis said. "So I came here, visited here, liked it and knew he was going to be here. I called him [my coach] back later that day and told him I was going to be here."
Although they kept up with each other throughout high school, Davis said the decision to play together wasn't predetermined.
That didn't stop coach Billy Taylor from pursuing the pair of them when he heard the news of their playing experience.
"Those two knew each other well from AAU and were great AAU teammates," Taylor said. "We were looking at both of them — they obviously filled very different needs for our program. But I definitely think it had an impact that they were guys that knew each other and had a comfort."
Once they made their decisions to become Cardinals, rooming together was a natural fit.
"Once we got here, we already knew each other," Davis said. "So we texted and said, ‘Live together?' and all that. We've been living together ever since, so we've always had a close relationship."
When watching a Ball State basketball game, one can see that relationship blossom on the court.
"There's a tremendous camaraderie and respect and trust amongst Randy and Jarrod," Taylor said. "That's obviously important to have because that goes on the floor then. From point guard, Randy, to post player, Jarrod, they've got to be able to work together and be on the same page in order for them flourish and have success."
Jones said all the success they've had on the court wouldn't be possible without the friendship outside of basketball.
"Being able to have a relationship off the court—it makes it easier and more comfortable to play on the court," Jones said.
Even when they aren't playing, basketball is still on their mind. Jones said conversations about practices and games always come up between them.
"Leaving practice and going home, we talk about what went on — there's always basketball talk," Jones said. "Just being around each other so much, we kind of talk about what may have happened during a game or practice and how we can fix that. It makes it easier having more understanding and more communication when you're around someone a lot."
Taylor said sometimes Davis and Jones are so in-tune on the court, he has to remind them to bring other teammates in with them. Just because they're on the same page doesn't mean everyone else is.
The experience that Davis and Jones bring has helped lead Ball State to an undefeated start (5-0, 13-5 overall) in MAC play.
As Ball State's schedule turns toward the tougher MAC East Division, everything is still up for grabs.
The chemistry between Jones and Davis just might be the key to a regular-season MAC championship.