Cameron Jones (above) redshirted his sophomore season due to a bevy of guards on the Saint Peter's roster. (Photo courtesy Saint Peter's Athletics/GR Productions)
Corey Sharp (@ByCoreySharp)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2017-18 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 10. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season,click here.)
Cameron Jones thinks people forgot about him.
The 6-foot-3, 200 pound wing averaged 4.7 ppg and played in all 30 games as a freshman for Saint Peter’s University during the 2015-16 season. He averaged 17.6 mpg and scored a career-high 21 points in his fourth-career game at Princeton -- in front of a bunch of family and friends.
Playing solid minutes as a freshman would lead one to believe that an expanded role would be on the horizon the next season for the Pennsbury product. Instead, Jones sat out his the entire 2016-17 season. Voluntarily.
Because of the plethora of guards returning from the year prior, about a week before the Peacock’s first scrimmage last season, head coach John Dunne told Jones that he wouldn’t play as much as he did his freshman year and offered him a chance to save his eligibility for when he’d see more time.
“We just had an abundance of guards in the program,” Dunne told CoBL by phone last week. “Cam is a talented guy, and I just didn’t want to waste a season on him if he wasn’t going to play any significant minutes. I thought we had enough guards in the program last year with Cam redshirting that we could even withstand an injury or two. I just thought, he was only a sophomore, he’s got a good career ahead of him, why waste a year on him playing very limited minutes?”
Those guards consisted of six returners for the 2016-17 season: leading scorer, 6-3 Antwon Portley, 6-1 Trevis Wyche, 6-2 Cavon Baker, 6-3 Chazz Patterson, 6-2 Nick Griffin, and 5-10 J.R. Williams. Dunne then added another wing to the mix -- 6-6 Nnamdi Enechionyia, a transfer from Samford University and the brother of Temple’s senior wing Obi Enechionyia.
Jones understood the amount of guards that were in the rotation last season, but it was still ultimately his choice whether he wanted to sit out. Dunne said that from his standpoint, the player has to be willing to do it because it’s a business decision. Essentially, it’s another year of tuition that goes to waste if a player sits out unwillingly.
After consulting with family and the coaching staff, Jones took Dunne up on the offer and was willing to sit out the season. The Morrisville, Pa. native took it as a gut-check at first, but it didn’t take too long into the season for Jones to start feeling anxious.
“We were going through extra workouts while the team was watching film or going through scouting reports and it was fine until about the first five games,” Jones said. “The other kid (DaVauhnte Turner) who redshirted along with me -- we definitely hit that point like ‘wow, this is what happens, we’re not playing this year.’
“We would just be on the bench or evaluating other players saying ‘aw, I wish I got there because I could do this, or do that,’” he continued. “It’s hard because obviously it’s basketball, you want to be on the court, but you have to learn from watching the game and better yourself.”
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes during a redshirt season. The sophomore was close to 215 pounds while he redshirted. He cleaned up his diet, getting nutrition tips from trainers and coaches to slim down to about 200 pounds. He feels like his game has expanded.
“I think this year, people will see I’m a lot more capable of driving the ball and creating for my teammates, while being known as a shooter,” Jones, said.
Saint Peter’s is coming off its best season since 2010-11, sporting a 23-13 record and winning 14 games in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), finishing in second-place in the competitive mid-major league. They wound up losing to NCAA Tournament-bound Iona in the MAAC semifinals, 73-65.
The Peacocks graduated four seniors and another transferred out. Four of them were guards: Wyche (11.2 ppg), Baker (6.6 ppg), and Patterson (5.1 ppg) graduated, while Portley left for Fordham. The team’s leading scorer, 6-8 center and Philly native Quadir Welton (12.0 ppg) also graduated.
That means there’s room for Jones to operate. St. Peter’s will return two fifth-year seniors guards: Griffin, who’s 6-2, and Enechionyia, who averaged 4.8 ppg last season. Turner, a 6-0 redshirt junior, is expected to be the team’s starting point guard. Jones figures to be right in the mix, in front of a bunch of new freshman and sophomore guards.
Dunne was non-committal on a starting lineup or even a set rotation, but said Jones will be “for sure” be in the top eight. One thing Dunne wants to see from Jones after taking a year off is an improved shot selection.
“I think coming from high school, where no shot was a bad shot and he was shooting 30-foot shots and sometimes going in...I think he needs to be a little smarter with some of the shot selection,” he said. “He shot pretty (well) his freshman year, but I don’t think he shot at the potential at which he could show. I think his percentages can go way up if he’s a little bit more selective with his shot taking, so I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Jones just wants to make sure he pays it forward to his coach.
“At the end of the day, obviously not just paying for my scholarship, but the fact that he was willing to give me an extra year shows that he actually has some type of trust in me,” he said. “I have to back it up this year and have a good year.”