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Player Preview: Just how good is Colby Jones?

The NIT tournament MVP

NCAA Basketball: NIT Final-Xavier vs Texas A&M Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Rather than a full on preview for each player on the roster this year we will be attempting to focus on one question that will determine how the player might fit on the team. The questions aren’t designed to carry either a positive or negative connotation, just really suss out how the roster is built. We’ll start with the freshman and build on to the players everyone knows.

Quick: name the major statistical category Colby Jones led Xavier in last year. Thinking? Still thinking? Wondering why this is so hard? It’s because Xavier’s jack of all trades didn’t lead the team in anything. The only category, rate or otherwise, that Jones was tops of the team in was steals. There he edged Paul Scruggs, who played two fewer games and over 100 fewer minutes. Colby Jones, though, enters this year as a Julius Erving Award top 20 finalist and has been named an honorable mention All-American by some publications.

Why? 11.6/7.3/3.2. .483/.680/.292. Those are the numbers of a player who is good to very good at everything (except maybe three point shooting). Jones was the NIT player of the tournament after finishing with a three game tear in which he went for 15, 16, and 21, raked in 22 rebounds, and had 11 assists. That three game stretch was more than just his peak, it was what people are beginning to expect from him.

From Feb 19th on, Colby never failed to score in double digits. He had less than five rebounds once. He had one assist once but other than that never had less than three. When in the mood, he can do almost everything (other than make three pointers). Jones is back this season carrying a bit more muscle, playing under a coach known for maximizing offensive performance, and with another summer of polish on him.

So how good is Colby? Good enough that there is NBA draft buzz surrounding him. Good enough that he was preseason all Big East. Good enough that people think he might be the best small forward in the nation. Good enough that he played the sixth most minutes in Big East play and still put up a offensive efficiency well above average. He’s an excellent player.

The only thing holding Jones back is his three point shooting and that has, oddly, gotten worse the more he has played. As a freshman he tried only 27 threes and made nine of them. Pre conference play last year he knocked down a respectable 37.5% of his three point attempts. In conference, though, that number dropped to 21.6%. In the small sample of the NIT, he was 4-10 (1-5 in games that weren’t the final).

Colby Jones is a great player with one drawback. Last year I said “Where can he go from there? As far as consistent finishing and ball handling will take him.” Jones trimmed his turnover rate significantly and got better. All he has to do is knock down the outside shot. If he does that this may be his final season as a Musketeer.