Jones, a 6-foot-6, 185-pound senior, had made unofficial trips to the school before, but it wasn’t necessarily the surroundings that triggered memories. It was his potential teammates.
“I knew most of the players on the team and already had a connection with them,” Jones said Wednesday. “It’s more like a family.”
Playing for a Baltimore Catholic League contender in John Carroll and an AAU power in Nike Baltimore Elite, Jones frequently played against or with some of the state’s top high school players. Greyhounds coach Jimmy Patsos has made it a top priority to add as many of those players as he can to his roster. On Wednesday, Jones joined his friends and former rivals by becoming Loyola’s latest in-state commitment.
“It feels great,” said Jones, a second-team Baltimore Sun All-Metro selection in 2011. “It’s kind of a relief. All I have to worry about is the season now. I don’t have to worry about college and everything like that.”
Said Patriots coach Tony Martin: “I think it’s an excellent fit. He’s a quality kid. Loyola is getting a young man that they’ll be proud of on and off the court, and in the classroom. And I think they’re getting a player that is going to surprise a lot of people and have an outstanding career there.”
Jones was a potential high-major recruit early in his high school career, but injuries – including a torn ACL and a stress fracture in his shin – forced him to miss an entire season with John Carroll and crucial time with NBE on the AAU circuit.
Nike Baltimore Elite president Carlton “Bub” Carrington recalled watching Jones and R.J. Williams – a St. Frances graduate and now freshman point guard at Loyola – square off several years ago in the championship game of the Nike Jamboree, a showcase for the top sophomores in the country at St. Louis University.
“[Jones] was Top 10 in scoring and his team went the championship game,” Carrington said. “I’m sitting there at camp, had two kids in my program playing against each other in the championship game, sitting there like a proud uncle. … And Jarred played in that game but tore his ACL.”
As a junior last season, Jones was back to full strength during high school. Along with senior guards Malcolm McMillan and Ronald Scott, Jones powered the Patriots to MIAA A Conference and BCL championships. He spent a successful summer with Nike Elite, and then returned for a senior season with Martin’s Patriots.
“He’s been groomed to play the game the right way at a very early age,” Martin said. “There’s not a lot of players in this day and age that play the way he does – completely unselfishly for the team. And his versatility is a weapon for any roster.”
Jones said Loyola started recruiting him a little bit last year, but picked up its pursuit in the fall. Longwood, Rider, St. Bonaventure and Siena were among the other programs recruiting Jones, but the Greyhounds intrigued him immediately.
“A lot of teams from that conference were recruiting me,” Jones said. “I was trying to see how they’re stacking up. I kind of liked it once I saw that – a school close to home doing well. I [thought I] might as well have a role with that. It’s a good fit.”
Jones, a Havre de Grace native, will be one of five Baltimore-area players on Loyola’s roster next season. He’ll join Williams, power forward Jordan Latham (City), combo guard Dylon Cormier (Cardinal Gibbons) and center signee Josh Forney (St. Frances).
“Loyola’s doing something nice up there,” Carrington said. “They have a lot of in-state kids now, a lot of [Baltimore] City kids, kids from D.C. and the [Prince George’s County] area. That’s what’s getting it done – tough kids right in their backyard. Now Loyola’s off to their best start in school history. Basketball-wise, it’s a great situation to go up and play with kids you played summer ball with. From high school to summer ball and now to college.”
Jones said he’s completely focused now on his last high school season. The future Greyhound is averaging 14 points, eight rebounds, two steals and 1.5 blocks for John Carroll (17-5). But while his goal remains leading the Patriots to another title, he can’t help but look forward to his future at Loyola, where he plans to major in business and compete for time at the 3 right away.
Jones is also excited about teaming up with a good friend in Williams and opponents he grew to respect like freshman shooting guard and Montrose Christian grad Tyler Hubbard.
“After I went out with the coach, I talked to the players to see how they liked it,” Jones said. “What they told me kind of clinched it for me. They told me real good things about the coaches. Everything about it, I really liked it. … I already have bonds right there. Once I go there, there’s already a bond and connection that can help them win some games.”
Carrington, meanwhile, can’t wait to see what Jones is capable of doing in college.
“For the first time, he’s really healthy,” Carrington said. “And that’s good. That could be trouble for the MAAC.”