Note – We’ve opened up our most recent chat with Duke bound Matt Jones to the public in order to give you an idea of the types of interviews you will gfind as a member of BDN Premium. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, Matt Jones committed to Duke, but that didn’t make him any less hungry. Embracing the target on his back, the now 6’5″ DeSoto (TX) junior shooting guard led his DeSoto Eagles to a 33-6 record.
At times, his Eagles were nationally ranked and reached the Texas 5A regional finals, but fell to Naaman Forest 56-49 to conclude the junior’s high school season. For the season, Matt Jones, regarded as arguably the best long-distance shooter in the 2013 class, averaged nearly nineteen points, nine rebounds, and over three assists per game. After the season, MaxPreps named the sharpshooter to its Junior All-American Team, along with Duke recruits Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, and Al Freeman.
His older 5’9″ sister, Jordan Jones, who committed as a point guard to the Texas A&M Aggies, played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and won the Powerade skills competition. Ten months from now, Jones is likely to join her in the small fraternity of McDonald’s All-Americans.
Right now, the spiritual Matthew Jones is teaming up with his close friend and 6’9″ running mate, Julius Randle, to form a dangerous one-two punch for their Texas Titans AAU team. The team has gone 8-1 so far over the first two legs of Nike’s EYBL. Through the first nine game in the competitive EYBL, Jones is the eighth leading scorer (17.7 ppg) and fifth in three-pointers made, 26 (shooting 48.1% from beyond the three-point arc). He’s tried to become a more well-rounded and dangerous scorer, while adding an improved rebounding component by taking advantage of his prototypical shooting guard frame and willingness to battle big men for rebounds.
After an EYBL game, Jones spoke with BDN about what the coaches have asked him to work on, recruiting Julius Randle, his development as a defender, and playing with a target on his back, amongst other topics.
You guys were nationally ranked at times and made it to the regional finals. How did you feel overall about your high school season?
Well, it was a tough loss. Being one of the favorites to win it all, I mean, it was definitely a disappointment at the end of the season, but I mean I really loved the guys on this team. Overall, it was a good season, though. I mean I’m proud of my guys and I wish we would’ve went further, but it was a really great season and a lot of other programs would’ve loved to have made it as far as we did.
How was the Hall of Fame Game? It’s an interesting idea to have a postseason tournament that includes a few top juniors and plays it in the Final Four city.
Yeah, it was pretty fun. I mean I loved it. Just the experience. It got me better as a person and as a player. It showed me some things that I can work on and improve on.
Your sister, Jordan, was a McDonald’s All-American. Most people don’t seem to ask you about her at all, but I was just curious what were your emotions when you saw her at the event and when she won the skills competition? You must’ve been very proud.
Oh, yeah, I love my sister. I mean we’re very competitive and I do mean very competitive, but she definitely raised the bar in the family. I mean I don’t want to be in her shadows. So, I have to make it. I have to do what she did and go beyond. (laughs)
You guys must have an incredible gene pool.
Yeah, we did. We’ve been blessed.
The odds on that are staggering. The coaches have been watching you and checking in on you recently.
Yeah, we’re definitely talking. They’ve just told me to play hard, play defense, and just show what I can do besides shooting. Just show my whole game.
Well, I was going to ask you about that. What have they recommended that you concentrate on?
Dribbling. Just dribbling and focusing more on the defensive end. That’s gotta be my focus. Mostly, just hard work
For those that haven’t seen you play since last summer, what’s the one aspect of your game that you’ve developed most over the past few months?
Dribbling. I can dribble more now. I mean if they needed me to now I could play a little point. My decision-making is better. My IQ is better.
With exceptional shooters, there’s always or often an issue of pushing your boundaries and expanding your game, while not taking away from your core strength or letting it deteriorate. How do you try to balance the two?
Yeah, I mean I work on my shooting with my shooting coach, Coach Jerome. I get a lot of shots up with him and we just always shoot, but, at the same time, we also work on a little dribbling.
DeSoto, yeah, and some other places. I just try to get a lot of dribbling in. You know in between the shooting and sprinkle in some defense here and there. You know ball handling and IQ and stuff like that.
What about your body? Have you been working out too?
Yeah, I’ve been hitting the weights a little bit, you know. You can see in the upper body (laughs).
(laughs) Yeah, you look a little more defined. A little less baby fat
Yeah, I’m trying to get there.
Since you brought up your defense, how would you assess it right now? Where is your defense compared to where you want it to be?
I want to be the guy who can lock down the best player on the other team. That’s where I want to get to. I feel like I’m getting close, but I’m not there yet. That’s the goal. I try to use my size.
How tall are you now, Matt?
I’m 6’5″ now. So, I feel like I’ve been blessed with good height. I’ve grown a little bit, but I just want to be a lockdown defender. I like taking the other guy out and locking him down. I want people to view me that way. That’s the thing that I’ve tried to take my pride in. My defense.
More people need to take some pride on that side of the ball. This next one is sort of a touchy or awkward issue. People are always interested in recruiting and you’re obviously very close with Julius. Are you helping to recruit him to Duke with you or do you just stay away from that area or topic completely?
Yeah, I mean I’m always in his ear. I try not to be in his ear too much, but I mean at the same time we’re brothers and we’ve got a good relationship. So, we’re pretty comfortable talking about anything. I definitely whisper to him here and there. (laughs)
What are you hoping to accomplish this summer?
Simply, just getting better. I want to show the coaches at Duke that I’ll be ready to play as soon as I get on the courts at Duke. I want to prepare as much as I can now. I want to show them how hungry I am. I hope you can see that I’m hungry.
Just out of curiosity, Texas is obviously very strong in 2013, but do you have any sort of rivalry with either Keith Frazier, who is both from your area and plays your position, or even the Harrison twins?
Yeah, I mean people compare us, but I mean it is what it is. I don’t really have rivalries, but I mean, if you’re good, I just want to take the challenge. I want to take you down.
I noticed that you guys didn’t play against each other this season.
No, we didn’t, but I would’ve liked to. If you’re good, I want to take the challenge of guarding you. That’s my thing.
I’d like to see the two of you match-up. No ducking.
Yeah, me too (laughs).
Alright, we’ll settle it. This is your second year playing in the EYBL. Last year, you guys were a little young and then you had to step up and score more in Dallas when Julius went down with an injury. How do you think you’ve benefitted from that trial by fire last year?
Just facing all of that talent and you know so many of those or these guys are going to be college-level players. You know, game in and game out, Nike or EYBL has been great about having all of these really good teams. It’s just a really good experience. These are some of the same guys that you’ll be facing in college. So, it’s good.
Well, you also personally stepped up your game last year.
Yeah, yeah, well, I needed to for my team.
For the younger guys in the audience, what do you think is the secret to your three-point shooting success?
Repetition. Just repetition. You’ve got to get out there and shoot. Figure out what’s working and just keep repeating it.
Yes, and being focused.
Other than dribbling and defense, what are some things that the Duke coaches have asked you to work on?
Just being a better teammate and being a better leader.
Does your football background help you at all?
No, not really. (laughs)
Your rebounding numbers were way up in high school this year? Was that something you concentrated more on? Some fans seemed happy to see a guard that could rebound.
Yeah, it was something that I thought I could do. There aren’t too many rebounding guards in the country if you look around. They don’t want to get in there with the big guys. That’s what I want to bring. If that’s another way that I can separate myself, then I’ll just stick my nose in there and be tough.
Did or do you feel like you’ve had a target on your back since you committed to Duke?
I feel like it. I feel like it. It just keeps you on your toes. It’s been a good motivator for me.
For fans that don’t know you, what do you like to do away from the court?
Bowling. I love to bowl.
A regular Lebowski. Really? That was something that Nolan Smith was into. I think he thought it helped him.
Yeah, me too. I don’t know what it is, but I love it.
You’re moving better this year without the ball. Was that something that you’ve tried to work on more this year?
Oh, yeah, I’m constantly trying to move around, throw my defender off, and just get open for my teammates.
Lastly, you were mentioning before working on your handle and strength? How far along are you, compared to where you eventually want to get to be?
Yeah, I work on those two things constantly with Coach Jerome. He’s right here. He’s the key to my success.
Yeah, I can see. Nice work, coach
I’ll see you guys later.
See you later. (in chorus)