This is the first in a series of looks back at the season that was, or more specifically at the presumably returning players.
Verdell Jones III played in 28 of IU's 31 games and averaged 29 minutes per game. He started 25 games, and while some of his teammates were hitting the wall, Jones seemed to come into his own near the end of the season. Early in the season, Jones was involved in one of the scariest moments I can remember: during IU's win over Cornell (IU's lone win over a NCAA Tournament team, for what it's worth) Jones ran into a legal screen set by a Cornell player and was knocked unconscious and carried off the court on a stretcher. Jones missed the next three games and didn't start the next two, but beginning with the Lipscomb game, Jones was in the starting lineup for good. Jones shot around 44 percent from the field and 32 percent from the line, stats that were consistent overall and in conference games only. Jones, forced into the starting point guard position, was barely in the black for the season, with 3.6 assists per game and 3.5 turnovers per game. In Big Ten play, he had 4.3 assists per game and 3.9 turnovers.
As I noted above, Jones finished strong. He scored a career high 23 against Wisconsin in the season finale and matched in in the Big Ten Tournament loss to Penn State, shooting over 63 percent from the field in each game and 100 percent from three point range.
Thanks mostly to 10-13 shooting from the line, Jones scored 18 points in his collegiate debut against Northwestern State.
The aforementioned head injury.
In a home loss to Northwestern, IU's first such loss in 40 years, Jones scored 6 points on 3-7 from the field and turned the ball over seven times.
The future: as with all of IU's returning players, it is difficult to say what the future holds. While he was a late recruit, he was far from a desperation recruit. Although Illinois did not offer this Champaign native, Minnesota wanted him badly and believed they had him in the bag until his press conference. It's not clear that his future is at point guard, but his resilience, including playing his best games near the end of the season, seems to be a good sign.