Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 4th, 2012
Senior Week is a big deal in the Big Ten. “One and Done” is a rare term used around the 12 programs because the players typically stick around longer than 1-2 seasons. They embrace the conference and the fans bring them into their lives during the cold winters. As all the teams play their home games over the weekend, the seniors will be honored. Some of the seniors already have well documented and recognized careers – Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor, Ohio State’s William Buford, and Northwestern’s John Shurna are just a few examples.
But Senior Night is not just about star players. It is also about the players who stuck with the program’s ups and downs over the years. It is about the guys that stuck through coaching changes and losing seasons. These kids played their last conference game with the same intensity as the first one despite their record or place in the standings. The seniors who are used to the spotlight will get their well-deserved dues this weekend but let’s take some time to recognize a few players who finish their careers after making an impact. The following are a few seniors that will be remembered as one of the toughest players over their careers.
Verdell Jones III helped Tom Crean put Indiana back in the right direction.
Verdell Jones III
Eight. That’s how many wins Jones had in conference action during his first three years. If you are reaching out for your calculator to check the winning percentage, that ends up being approximately 15%! Jones knew that his career in Bloomington would not be a walk in the park after the mess created by Kelvin Sampson, but he didn’t expect it to be that bad, especially considering Tom Crean’s ability to recruit quality talent. Jones averaged 11 points per game as a freshman and 14.9 during his sophomore season. The Hoosiers expected him to lead early in his career and he did not shy away from the responsibility. Jones had to do everything during games because of the lack of talent around him. Tom Crean remained positive and tried to keep the team’s spirits up but he couldn’t have done it without mature leaders such as Jones. Jones easily could have transferred after an excellent sophomore campaign, but he stayed with the team through the rough times. He could have been demoralized after Maurice Creek got hurt last season, but he continued to play hard. Creek was supposed to be a running mate for Jones but that never materialized.
All the patience paid off for Jones this season. Indiana beat three top 5 teams at home and they could not have done it without his leadership. He has taken a lesser role with the emergence of Christian Watford and the star freshman, Cody Zeller. But the numbers are the only aspect of his game that went down in his fourth year because he continues to be the strong pillar on the young squad. Indiana basketball is back and Jones has been an extremely key piece of the rebuilding project along with his head coach. Crean and the Hoosiers fans are thankful for his contributions.
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