Devante Jones

Coastal Carolina point guard Devante Jones has gotten some attention from NBA scouts.

There is no sophomore slump for Coastal Carolina point guard Devante Jones. 
The New Orleans native is averaging 15.6 points per game, 5.9 assists per game and 5.1 rebounds per game. 
“He’s the best point guard I have ever played with,” said junior guard Keishawn Brewton. “He’s definitely an NBA prospect. He has so many assets to his game.”
Jones, who was named the 2018-2019 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, found himself ranked in the Top 30 in assists and leading the Sun Belt in that category. 
In fact, Jones ranks high in multiple statistical categories in the Sun Belt Conference. He is third in field goal percentage (.507), fourth in free throw percentage (.849), fifth in scoring and sixth in steals (1.7 per game).
The way Jones plays makes even the toughest of shots look easy. However, things weren’t always so simple for the kid from the Big Easy.
Prior to the start of the 2017-2018 season, Jones, who was preparing for what would have been his freshman year, was deemed ineligible by the university after having some trouble getting out of Coastal’s CEaL program.
The Coastal Excellence and Leadership (CEaL) program grants conditional admission to some students who fall just below the university's admission requirements. Students in the CEaL program must complete a rigorous summer program before beginning their first fall semester at the university. 
“I got caught up in some distractions and wasn’t able to keep focus,” Jones said. “That’s all my fault. And while it did slow me down, I feel like I’ve come back and I’m doing really well at the moment.”
Despite that early struggle, Jones worked his way back and caught up in his academics. He was able to take a redshirt for the second half of the 2017-2018 season and became fully eligible for the 2018-2019 season.
“He learned some things going through this process,” Coastal Carolina head coach Cliff Ellis said. “He wanted to be here and he’s developed into a great player and is academically sound. He’s a great kid all around.”
Finally, after a full year of not playing competitive basketball at the collegiate level, Jones returned to the court and put together one of best seasons by a Coastal Carolina freshman. Despite missing 12 games, Jones was still able to average 14.6 points per game in the 22 contests he played, along with 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
He scored in double figures in 16 of those 22 games, including dropping 32 points in a 109-91 win on the road against West Virginia in the CBI Quarterfinals.
“I have to give kudos to last year’s guys like Zac Cuthbertson, Ajay Sanders and all of them,” Jones said. “They really helped me develop and made things easier for me instead of having to do things all by myself.”
His efforts last season were enough for the Sun Belt Conference to name him the 2018-2019 Freshman of the Year.
“That was a huge honor for me,” Jones said. “Freshmen don’t typically have the opportunity to play a lot right away. I have to thank Coach Ellis for trusting me and giving me the key to help lead. My teammates helped by giving me so much energy, which gave me the confidence to do what I needed to do.”
Prior to the start of this season, there were many parts of Jones' game that he wanted to improve. But that work was delayed after he suffered an injury when he had to evacuate for Hurricane Dorian in early September.
“I was playing pick-up with some of my friends up in Chattanooga because I wanted to just keep on working on my game,” Jones said. “It’s a bad injury, but it’s going to get better."
As he recovered, Jones continued to fine-tune his approach.
"I’ve been working on slowing down my game," he said. "I was too fast on certain possessions, which led to a lot of my turnovers. So I’ve been working on that. I also have been working on having a more consistent shot.”
Jones has reduced the number of turnovers. He is also shooting better from the floor, hitting just over 50% on the season. Last year, he was at 47% through his first 16 games.
While Jones has proven his talents, the sophomore stressed the importance of having strong teammates around him. One of those players is his best friend Ebrima Dibba. 
Throughout the majority of last season, when neither player was battling an injury, the relationship between Jones and Dibba was obvious.
“DJ and I talked over the whole summer about how we are going to come in here this year and change the culture of Coastal Carolina,” Dibba said before the season started. “We both hold ourselves to higher expectations.”
Unfortunately, Coastal fans will have to wait until next season to see once again how well Jones and Dibba will play together after Dibba saw his season come to an end early. He suffered a gruesome knee injury in a game against Baylor on Nov. 22.
“That injury hurt me a lot,” Jones said. “We felt like we were on the verge of doing something great and then he sees his season coming to an end. Last year, he and I got very close when we both were out because of injury and seeing him go down like that it’s like watching one of your family members get hurt. He’s a brother to me.”
Since a blowout loss to Mississippi State on Nov. 24 — the first game without Dibba — Jones has failed to score 10 or more points only once in that span. He has also recorded a double-double six times within those 10 games. 
His highlights have garnered the attention of some NBA scouts.
“I’m very proud that he has elevated [his game and] he’s gotten to the point where he has gotten their attention,” Ellis said. “He has been able to put himself in that picture and he is not the type to sit around. He knows that he has to get better and he will.”
Jones believes this Coastal team has the ability to win a Sun Belt championship and make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years.
“Last year we had a five-game win streak in conference play and we got too hyped and then lost the next four,” he said. ”This year one of my biggest messages to the guys was that we can’t get too excited after a win. We have to go game by game. Yes, a winning streak is nice to have, but you can’t focus on it. I feel like if our team plays defense the way we have played against teams like Utah and [Louisiana] Monroe this past year, we can win this conference and make it back to the NCAA Tournament.”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236


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