Don Ketchum
Former Staff Writer,

Jones a cool cat on basketball floor, just like his dad

December 12, 2012 by Don Ketchum, AZPreps365

The Lion has produced a Tiger, and high school basketball in the Valley has another good story.

Elston Jones, former star for Phoenix Alhambra’s Lions and New Mexico State, now watches his son, also named Elston, develop into a force for the Goodyear Millennium Tigers.

Young Elston, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound junior, is making up for lost time after sitting out all but two games of his sophomore season with a knee-displacement injury. He did not have surgery, but spent all of last season rehabilitating the injury and strengthening the muscles around it.

After shaking off the rust in summer club ball, Jones helped Millennium win seven of its first eight games.

According to Millennium coach Mike Lopez, Jones is averaging close to 14 points and a dozen rebounds per game.

“He has a ways to go, but he is making great progress in his skill development,’’ Lopez said. “He is becoming more of a presence.

“He is a very good rebounder at both ends of the floor, he is very unselfish when it comes to passing the ball, he is very mobile, and he is an all-around good teammate and person.’’

College coaches are very aware of the kid’s potential, and some already have visited him. Among them are Arizona State’s Herb Sendek, the University of San Francisco’s Randy Bennett (former player at Mesa Westwood), and New Mexico’s Steve Alford. North Texas head coach Tony Benford, a former assistant at ASU, showed up at practice on Wednesday (Dec. 12).

All of them know you can’t coach height.

Elston the elder was a key component of some playoff teams at Alhambra. He, too, was a good rebounder, sliced to the basket and was a decent mid-range shooter. He was a few inches shorter than young Elston. The kid would appear to have more room for growth. He is two inches taller since last season, Lopez said.

Young Elston has even more basketball in the bloodlines. His mother, Sharon, also played at New Mexico State and his older sister played at Avondale Westview when Elston the elder was head coach there a few years ago.

“I think I might have been a bit hungrier at this point, but his skill set is much better,’’ said the older Jones, a newscast director for KPNX (Channel 12) in Phoenix for 17 years and an assistant coach for Lopez at Millennium.

“Back when I played (in the early 1980s), there weren’t many club teams and you just kind of had to develop on your own. He has that advantage.’’

And young Elston is gaining an advantage when he plays against his dad.

“He used to beat me, but not anymore,’’ he said, almost wanting to laugh but holding back because his dad was standing nearby.

Young Elston is enjoying the season thus far, and said the Tigers are capable of making some noise in the Division I playoffs.

“We are sharing the ball, not forcing our shots and are playing good defense,’’ he said.

He said he feels 100 percent, health-wise.

“I am working hard trying to get better,’’ he said. “My ball-handling, my shooting, my explosiveness. We have weight training every day, first hour.’’

Lopez points to the guidance of Millennium strength and conditioning coach Derek Drumtra as one of the reasons for young Elston’s improvement.

The more minutes young Elston plays, the more confident he will become.

“Doing well so far, but I need to be more aggressive, attack the basket,’’ he said. “I enjoy rebounding and blocking shots.’’

That would appear to be a scary thought for opponents, since this young cat appears to have only scratched the surface.