Ute guard Charles Jones Jr. is adjusting to D-1 basketball, learning that not all shots are good shots

NJCAA player of the year believes he can become the two-way force his new team needs.

(Photo / Steve C. Wilson / University of Utah) Charles Jones, Utah men's basketball.

Charles Jones Jr. became the national player of the year in junior college basketball because of his scoring ability, and his defense has proven to be more than adequate in Utah's practices over the past month.

There’s more for him to learn, though. “I’m just trying to figure out where I’m going to get my shots — what’s a good shot, what’s a bad shot, and just playing my game,” Jones said.

Wait. There’s such thing as a bad shot? Jones laughed, knowing that phrase rarely surfaced during his career as a guard for the College of Southern Idaho, where he was asked to do a lot of shooting and scoring. That’s a slightly unfair stereotype of JuCo basketball, but there’s some truth to it.

“Most of his learning curve has been on offense,” Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

Jones' adjustment continued Saturday, when the Utes played a 60-minute, closed scrimmage at Saint Mary's. Utah will host College of Idaho in an exhibition game Thursday, then open the season Nov. 8 vs. Maine.

Krystkowiak’s biggest challenge is to develop a playing rotation and blend a bunch of newcomers such as Jones into his system.



When • Thursday, 6 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Networks.

“From a defensive point of view, there’s a few things teamwise that he’s had to figure out, but he’s really good at the point of attack, guarding his guy — probably an elite-level defender,” Krystkowiak said.

That's what Jones believes he brings to Utah's program, along with the expectation to score, after averaging 19.7 points for CSI. He scored 24.2 points in the NJCAA tournament as the Golden Eagles reached the championship game. Jones posted 27 points in a loss to South Plains College of Texas.

“Same thing,” he said. “They want me to score the ball. And I'm going to be guarding the best player, day in and day out.”

Jones, who's from Portland, Ore., acknowledged needing “some teaching moments” in his transition to Division I basketball. The adjustment began in early August with a conditioning regimen on the first day that “opened up my eyes a little bit,” he said.

He adapted to the program’s expectations and soon got to know his teammates, becoming comfortable within the first week. Now comes the season, when he plans to do the same stuff he’s always done on the court, just differently.