CATEGORY: Basketball



By Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

Contrary to popular belief, Mississippi State coach Richard Williams says he likes Dontae' Jones.

"You guys don't understand what a fun guy Dontae' is to be around," Williams said of the former Northeast Mississippi Community College All-America player. "He's always carrying on, enjoying himself. He is an emotional, excitable guy, and I like that."

Bulldog fans who've seen Williams yank Jones out of games for making a turnover or taking a poor shot in recent weeks may think otherwise.

In last weekend's loss to Alabama, a finger-pointing Williams gave Jones an ear full on the sideline after a miscue on the court. It surely wasn't Jones' day. He was held out of the starting lineup for the first time this season after 12 starts. As a matter of fact, he played only a season-low 12 minutes in the Bulldogs' 56-55 upset loss. His nine turnovers against Kentucky earlier in the week probably had something to do with his not starting.

Jones, a 6-foot-7 forward, returned to the starting lineup in Wednesday's 53-47 SEC win over Ole Miss. He played 31 minutes, his SEC season high, scored eight points, had five rebounds, two steals and only two, count 'em, two, turnovers.

In the postgame press conference, Williams praised Jones' effort against the Rebels.

"The burning question on everybody's mind is Dontae'," Williams said. "I thought tonight that he played within himself better than he has all year. That's all we ask him to do. ... I thought he played his best basketball game."

"He has not been a problem to coach at all. He's very coachable."

Coachable, but not quotable. In an effort to ease some of the tension surrounding Jones' performances, Williams has made him "off limits" to the news media for an undisclosed period of time.

"He's a new guy," Jones' teammate, All-SEC guard Darryl Wilson said. "He has never been on a team where he is surrounded by players as good as he is."

Another question State fans want to know is where is the Dontae' Jones the Juco Player of the Year one they've heard about. Last season at Northeast, Jones averaged 28.7 points and 13.3 rebounds a game. He averaged 33.7 points a game in the national tournament.

Through his first 14 games as a Bulldog, Jones is averaging 11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds a game.

"He has been inconsistent, but he's beginning to get better," Williams said. "He's not as good a post-up player as we thought, but he's a better perimeter player than we thought. He is also a real good defensive rebounder."

Williams said he has received at least "a million letters" the last two weeks from fans wanting to know why State doesn't run plays to feature Jones.

"We have about five plays that are just for Dontae'. But other teams know those plays and they do a good job defending them," Williams said.

"The one thing I wish we could get him to do more is to get out and run in transition, because he can really, really run. He can fly," Williams said. "If I can get him to get out and run once we get a rebound, I think you'll see more transition baskets from Dontae'. That's where he's really, really good."

That's what State fans have been waiting 14 games to see.

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