Verdell Jones III had a dream of making the NBA when he was a kid. It became much more of an attainable goal when he played at Indiana.
His NBA dream and goal seemed to be all but gone when he suffered a torn ACL against Penn State during the Big Ten Tournament of his senior season. But Jones isn’t giving up yet.
The former Indiana guard is back in the United States after playing professionally in Japan this past season, and he’s ready to take a serious run at the league he always dreamed of playing in.
“It’s definitely one of my goals and dreams, so I’ll definitely try to keep pursuing it as long as I can,” Jones told Inside the Hall on Thursday. “If it doesn’t work out then hey, it doesn’t work out. But I’m definitely pushing it and reaching for it.”
Jones is currently back home in Champaign, Ill. and he said he plans to start training around the country soon. His agent has set up workouts for him in Chicago and New York, and he said he hopes to join an NBA Summer League team sometime after the current season ends.
“I’m just working out and trying to get stronger,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
While it may not be likely Jones lands on an NBA roster for next season, he’s in a much better position to make one now than he was a year ago.
When Jones graduated from Indiana last May, he was still in the process of trying to recover from his injured knee. He signed a pro contract with Peristeri GS, a Greek team, in August, but the situation wasn’t exactly ideal. The country went through serious financial woes, and Jones didn’t feel secure for the long term.
“In Greece, it was a good league, but the money situation was terrible,” Jones said. “You got paid late, first off, and when you did get paid, you got paid like half your check. It was stressful as far as that aspect, so I thought it was best for me to leave and go to a different country.”
Jones returned home for a few weeks last December to weigh his options and decide on his next step. Eventually, he decided to accept a contract offer from the Oita Heat Devils in Japan.
The highly touted 2012 recruiting class is expected to arrive in Bloomington to join a program many have projected to be the nation’s best next winter. The five 2012 signees will replace an outgoing group who came to IU at its bottom in the summer of 2008 and helped lead the Hoosiers all the way back to the Sweet 16 in March.
One of the key members of that group was Verdell Jones, a four-year starter who saw his senior season end abruptly in the Big Ten Tournament with an ACL tear in a win over Penn State.
Inside the Hall caught up with the Champaign, Illinois native on Wednesday for an update on his rehab, his plans to pursue a professional career and much more:
On what he’s been doing since graduation last month and how things are progressing with rehab:
“I hired an agent. Jared Hodges from WSMG. I was cleared last week to do more on the court stuff. I can do some light cutting now, I can do a lot more basketball stuff, a lot more shooting stuff, ball handling up and down. Nothing too vigorous. I can stairmaster, I can do elliptical, stuff like that. I’ve been cleared to do weight lifts, so now I’m just doing that almost every day. I’m doing a lot of basketball work with my dad almost every day. I haven’t felt pain in a while. The doctor said last week I was a couple weeks ahead of schedule, which is good. I’m going to keep working.”
On when he expects to be 100 percent and on his plans to pursue a professional career:
“The doctor said that I would probably be almost 100 percent by late September. As far as working out for teams, working out for overseas or NBA teams, I can probably start doing that in August. I missed a lot of the training camps and different camps that the NBA teams and overseas teams watch, but I hired a great agent and a lot of teams are waiting to see what happens with my knee. Every kid’s goal is to play in the NBA, but I have no problem playing overseas.”
On leaving Bloomington and getting back home and getting a chance to work out with his father and brother:
“It’s mixed feelings. I definitely miss the guys at IU. I loved working out with them. But it feels really good to be back with my dad. I feel like he was the guy who made me the high school player I was and allowed me the opportunity to go to IU. It feels real good. My dad, he knows a lot of my strengths and weaknesses. We’ve been trying to work on my outside shot, watching games. And my brother (Clayton), he’s trying to pursue his dreams, too.”
“It’s a tough process. I mean, it’s a lot of money,” Zeller said. “I’m just not ready to grow up yet. Paying rent, getting a house, becoming an adult — I’m not ready for all that. I’m enjoying my college career, on and off the court. I’m definitely happy to be here.”
Christian Watford, who also explored his NBA options before deciding to return for his senior season, said he’s excited about playing with the Hoosiers’ highly-rated recruiting class coming in next season.
Watford has been “resting” during the early weeks of the offseason because of a heel injury he played with throughout the season. He had a walking boot on his left foot at the team’s awards celebration Thursday night.
“I just wanted to come back and be a part of this team,” Watford said. “I feel like we can do some great things this next year and help build from right where we left off.”
Jones not ready for career to end
Senior guard Verdell Jones, who missed the NCAA tournament after tearing his ACL during the Big Ten tournament, said Thursday his surgery went “very well” and he is currently working on rehab.
“It was painful the first week after, I couldn’t walk at all,” Jones said. “Slowly but surely it’s gotten better. I’m currently off the crutches, I can walk a little bit. It’s still a little painful when I walk.”
Jones also said he plans to hire an agent “in the next week or so,” and attempt to play professional basketball overseas in Europe.
Christian Watford, Cody Zeller, Jordan Hulls and Verdell Jones met with the media following Indiana’s awards celebration at Assembly Hall on Thursday night. Jones discussed his rehab and plans for the future and Watford and Zeller discussed their decisions to return to Bloomington next season.
Watch and listen to their comments in the embedded media players below:
Per a release from Methodist Sports Medicine, Indiana senior guard Verdell Jones III underwent successful knee surgery to repair a torn right ACL on Friday. Jones suffered the injury in Indiana’s 75-58 win over Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament on Mar. 8.
Here’s the full release:
Indianapolis, Ind. – March 30, 2012 – Indiana University senior point guard Verdell Jones, III underwent successful surgery to reconstruct a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
The surgery was performed by Thomas Klootwyk, MD of Methodist Sports Medicine / The Orthopedic Specialists in Indianapolis. Jones sustained the season ending injury during the first round of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis March 8.
Jones, who will graduate this spring, was a key member of the rebuilding process of the IU basketball program and helped the Hoosiers to their first NCAA tournament berth in four seasons.
About Methodist Sports Medicine / The Orthopedic Specialists Methodist Sports Medicine / The Orthopedic Specialists, a partner of Indiana University Health, is Central Indiana’s premier provider of comprehensive orthopedic services and has built its reputation on excellence in orthopedics and sports medicine for more than 25 years. Official team physicians for many high schools, college and professional teams, including the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, 100 percent of the group’s orthopedic surgeons are fellowship trained, board certified and leaders in new technologies, procedures and research. For more information, please visit www.methodistsports.com.
Jones averaged 7.5 points, 3.2 assists and 2.9 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game in his final season for the Hoosiers.
Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2011-2012 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Verdell Jones. Editor’s note: Read our senior day feature on Jones here.
Final stats (30 games): 7.5 ppg, 3.2 apg, 2.9 rpg, 41.9% FG, 75.5% FT in 24.5 minutes per game.
No player in recent IU basketball history has been debated, discussed and dissected quite like Verdell Jones.
Coming into his final season in Bloomington, there was an argument to be made that the Hoosiers would be better off shifting Jones into a lesser role within the offense. And that’s exactly what happened.
During his first three seasons, Jones used over a quarter of the IU’s possessions and played at least 61.4% or more of the available minutes at his position. As a senior, his percentage of possessions used dipped to 21.6 and his percentage of minutes played fell to 51.0.
The diminished offensive role was beneficial to both Jones, who was able to shift into more of a playmaker rather than a scorer, and the Hoosiers, who re-distributed his shots to more efficient options.
While his efficiency numbers might not bear it out in every category, the Champaign, Il. native played his best basketball in his final season. His defense, particularly on the ball, improved immensely. He made clutch shots late in wins at Assembly Hall over Michigan and Northwestern. And he delivered a pass to Christian Watford to set up the shot that beat No. 1 Kentucky.
Rather than listening to message board debates on whether he should remain in the starting lineup or the boos that rang down on him in IU’s home loss to Minnesota, Jones used the doubt as motivation to continue improving.