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Myles Jones began his emergence into a star in the second half of last season.
Myles Jones began his emergence into a star in the second half of last season. (Rich Barnes, USA TODAY Sports)

Myles Jones' coronation as the next Jim Brown of college lacrosse might have to wait for another year or two.

But the similarities between the Duke midfielder and the game's best player of all-time are stunning. Both succeeded in multiple sports and both are physically dominating. Both are African-American and extremely athletic. Brown dominated the game in the mid-1950s at Syracuse, and Jones is on the verge of greatness.

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At times, the comparisons were premature, but not when they are made by Roy Simmons Jr., the former great Syracuse coach who played with Brown at the school.

Simmons holds Brown in the highest regards and still refers to as "Big Jim."

"Big Jim played at a time when midfielders were about 6-1 and 180 pounds, and nowadays they are close to 190 to 200 pounds," Simmons said. "He was bigger, physically stronger than most, and guys got out of his way because they feared of getting run over. But Jim was ambidextrous, which was uncommon in the 50s. He had great stick work because he had played lacrosse more than he played football.

"This kid [Myles] is a lot like him, demands his space," Simmons continued. "He is an inch or two taller than Big Jim but about the same weight. His stick work has improved, and it wasn't that way two years ago. He is a great player to watch, phenomenal."

Most of the lacrosse world is focused on the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Jones because he is the best player on Duke, which has won the past two national championships.

Jones broke out in the second half of last season, when he scored 28 goals and added 22 assists in Duke's final 11 games after scoring only 13 points in the first nine. During the Blue Devils' four-game NCAA tournament run, Jones had 10 goals and 11 assists, including a seven-point effort against Johns Hopkins in the quarterfinals.

For a good part of last season, Jones was still an unknown, just another part of a collection of good players, which included attackmen Christian Walsh and Jordan Wolf.

Now, he is the center of everyone's attention. In Duke's wins against High Point and Air Force this season, Jones already has six goals and six assists.

"When we played him earlier in the season last year, we put a short stick on him and forced him to his left and we slowed him down," Loyola Maryland coach Charley Toomey said. "Then later in the year when I watched him play, I thought if we played him again we'd have to match him up against a long pole, and then slide another pole over to help out.

"I have never seen a player improve so much in six weeks. Give [Duke coach] John Danowski credit, he unleashed him. As for Jim Brown, we'll see. He is the known now, just like Paul Rabil and Kyle Harrison were the knowns. The book still has to be written. There is a lot left to write."

When reminded that Jones is only a junior, not a senior as he previously thought, Toomey said, "Oh, God help us all."

Jones is forcing a lot of teams to change up defensive schemes and concepts. Besides the obvious size advantage, Jones is usually one of the fastest players on the field.

He can outrun most opponents and run through double teams. He is extremely unselfish and has great vision, which allows him to dish off when teams slide hard to him. He had virtually no left hand until the second half of last season, and now he is lethal shooter and passer with both.

Virginia coach Dom Starsia spent a good part of his offseason preparing for Jones.

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"Please tell him from me that he could be playing on Sundays in the fall someday if he decided to play outside linebacker at Duke," said Starsia, laughing. "We actually made some personnel adjustments in the off season in anticipation of having to match up with Myles down the road.

"The biggest defenseman in our program is now a long stick midfielder. That may give us a fighting chance, but he will still need help."

Jones is getting just as much attention off the field. Danowski said his star player he doesn't turn down any autograph or media request. Wherever he plays, people want to watch, and he draws the best out of his competition. In a recent game against High Point, the Panthers bench erupted when they stripped Jones of the ball.

It's as if they had won the Super Bowl.

"Starting last summer, our first conversation was about keeping your nose clean, doing everything right," Danowski said of Jones, who is from Huntington, N.Y. "Let's be realistic here. First of all, he is African-American and secondly, he is 6-4 and 235 pounds, and he is really good lacrosse player. He has hit the trifecta as far as becoming the face of lacrosse.

"But with that comes a lot of responsibility, and he has to be able to handle that, and that's part of the reason we [the coaching staff] are here."He really is a great kid and doesn't have a mean bone in his body."

Danowski doesn't worry about Jones' production dropping off this season. The Blue Devils always stress moving the ball, and Jones has many options playing along with midfielders Deemer Class (Loyola Blakefield), Jack Bruckner and attackmen Justin Guterding and Case Matheis.

"There have only been two or three players that I thought were physical enough to be in the class with Big Jim," Simmons said. "[Johns Hopkins star Paul] Rabil was big and strong, but a lot of what he did was just because he was bigger than others. Not this kid. He could be really special."

A "Big Jim" kind of special.

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