At the beginning of the exhibition season, Ball State basketball coach Tim Buckley was unsure about the playing status of senior center Lonnie Jones. Buckley wouldn't name Jones a starter at the time because he hadn't proved his desire to play in practice.
After the madness that surrounded the Cardinals in Maui, Jones has proven that he is ready to make his senior year one to remember.
Jones has come a long way since his days at Lew Wallace High School in Gary. When he arrived in Muncie in 1998, everyone was surprised with his 6-feet 10-inch frame. Everyone knew he could play the post position, but he was skinny. The media guide had him at barely over 200 pounds that year.
Yet he made an impact right away.
Jones led the Mid-American Conference in blocked shots his freshman year. His sophomore year, Jones finished with 84 swats and his junior year concluded with 76.
Now Jones is listed as a strong 228 pounds and now stands an even 7 feet tall.
The Maui Invitational was an opportunity for Ball State basketball to really show the country what it can do. For Jones, it was a chance to give any doubters of his work ethic.
He got the starting nod against Kansas, pulling down seven rebounds and used his size to change the plans of the Jayhawks, blocking two shots. Against UCLA, Jones was more of an offensive threat. He finished with 14 points against the Bruins and held UCLA center Dan Gadzuric to just four points. Jones swatted away four UCLA shots and nabbed seven rebounds.
It was against Duke, however, that Jones showed what kind of impact he has on Ball State basketball. He had five blocked shots against the Blue Devils, and when he was in the game, he was a force on the boards and the Cardinals' play was better with him on the floor. Jones grabbed eight rebounds with only one personal foul -- an area that plagued him throughout the tournament. Jones picked up four fouls against Kansas and three versus UCLA.
Lonnie Jones was a major factor in the Maui Invitational, a tournament that pushes teams to the limit early in the college basketball season. For a player that has often been criticized for getting off to a slow start at the beginning of the season, Jones showed his ability to rise to the occasion.
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