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Indiana Junior All-Stars get BIG pick-up in Ben Davis beast Dawand Jones

Ben Davis High School center Dawand Jones pulls a rebound down for the Indiana Junior All-Stars in a game Sunday against Kentucky at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Jones finished the game with a team-leading 11 rebounds and 25 points. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Ben Davis High School center Dawand Jones battles for a rebound for the Indiana Junior All-Stars in a game Sunday against Kentucky at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Jones finished the game with a team-leading 11 rebounds and 25 points. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Ben Davis High School center Dawand Jones (right) sets a screen for East Noble forward Ali Ali for the Indiana Junior All-Stars in a game Sunday against Kentucky at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Ben Davis High School center Dawand Jones (left) trails the play as Wayne High School standout Craig Young gets fouled on a drive for the Indiana Junior All-Stars in a game Sunday against Kentucky at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Ben Davis High School center Dawand Jones makes a pass out of the post for the Indiana Junior All-Stars in a game Sunday against Kentucky at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Jones finished the game with a team-leading three assists. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)
Ben Davis High School center Dawand Jones battles for position for a rebound for the Indiana Junior All-Stars in a game Sunday against Kentucky at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Jones finished the game with a team-leading 11 rebounds and 25 points. (By Tom Davis of News-Sentinel.com)

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Junior All-Star coach Matt English knew he needed reinforcements following his 113-109 overtime loss Saturday to the Kentucky Juniors.

English was missing six of his 13-man roster, including 6-foot-9 Trayce Jackson-Davis, 6-foot-8 Keion Brooks, Jr., and 6-foot-7 Mason Gillis.

The end result wasn’t just that his team lost the game but Indiana got obliterated on the glass 78-48, as Kentucky had four players grab double-figure rebounds.

“Those (Kentucky) guys were huge,” English told News-Sentinel.com following the game.

Well, “huge” is a relative term because English pulled in a “ringer” of mammoth proportions for the Sunday rematch.

With the second game in the series being played at Ben Davis High School, English quickly recruited Giant (literally and figuratively) center Dawand Jones and the beast of a young man made his presence felt. Jones was scheduled to play in Wednesday’s game with the Indiana Senior All-Stars at New Albany High School as part of the “Central Group” but made himself available Sunday and English quickly accepted.

Yes, Kentucky once again made critical plays in the final minute to seal another victory (90-85) but you can’t blame Jones. The 6-foot-8, 360-pound athlete (and yes, he is athletic) finished the game with team-highs of 25 points, 11 rebounds, and even dished out three assists to match point guard Ethan Brittain-Watts of Culver Academies in that category.

“I just play my game,” Jones told News-Sentinel.com afterward.

His “game” was intriguing to watch for the fans in attendance and a nuisance for the Kentucky players and coaches.

Jones posted up whenever and where ever he wanted and he displayed very adept footwork and hands, which he attributed to his time on the football field.

“It helps a lot,” Jones said of football skills translating to the basketball court, “because you work so much on your feet. Your feet are always moving when you take kick-steps and chopping your feet to block.”

Jones was fantastic at reeling in the varied post feeds and he also had the sensory skills to know when and where to kick the ball back out to the perimeter, which he did effectively.

Kentucky once again won the rebounding battle but only by a 50-42 margin, which was significantly smaller than Saturday’s dominating effort.

Jones’ play caused a dilemma for Kentucky all afternoon but it also is going to cause one for his self next school year. After playing right tackle for the unbeaten (14-0) IHSAA Class 6A state championship football team, he already has college scholarship offers (Ball State, Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee-Martin) in that sport but he loves basketball just as much as he does football.

“I don’t know yet,” Jones answered when asked about which sport he’ll pursue. “It’s probably 50-50. I put my heart into both of them. I put everything into it every time that I play.”

He was pretty adamant that he would play just one sport in college but after averaging nearly 14 points and seven boards for a 21-win team that fell to eventual 4A state champion Warren Central 48-46 in overtime in the regional which sport remains a puzzling question.

Jones has actually dropped weight and is continuing to do so as he is eating healthier and conditioning harder.

“I want to get to at least 340 by the end of summer,” Jones said.

The gregarious young man will have new coaches in both sports next season after both Mike Kirschner (football) and Mark James (basketball) left for other positions following successful seasons with the Giants.

Jones isn’t concerned about that, however. He said the adjustment is “just part of the journey” and as he can attest, there is still a long way to go before his story comes to its final chapter.

Stars not shining

Both Jackson-Davis (Center Grove High School) and Brooks, Jr. (Fort Wayne North Side) have made the cut down to 18 players for the 2018 USA Men’s U18 National Team and those tryouts in Colorado Springs continue through Wednesday, which will negate their participation in Wednesday’s Junior All-Stars vs. the Indiana Senior All-Stars at New Albany High School.

English has been without all but Cathedral wing Armaan Franklin off of the “Core 6” group so far but he may have Gillis back for Wednesday’s game.

“I’m going to try to play,” Gillis told News-Sentinel.com following Sunday’s game.

The New Castle forward tore his meniscus this spring and had surgery six weeks ago but has gone through pregame warm-ups this weekend.

“I’m not 100 percent yet,” Gillis continued, “but I feel pretty good. I’m going to try and play.”

If Gillis can play, he’ll join Franklin and possibly Valparaiso guard Brandon Newman, who has missed both games so far due to a family matter.

Zionsville guard (and Purdue commit) Isaiah Thompson, like Gillis, has missed both games so far due to injury but he will not be able to play Wednesday.

Other players that are scheduled to join the “Core 6” for the game are Jones, Manuel Brown (Indianapolis Scecina), Luke Bumbalough (New Castle), Connor Jones (Danville), John Michael Mulloy (Carmel), and Sam Skaggs (Logansport).

The girl’s game tips-off at 6 p.m. with the boy’s game to follow.

For more on the sport of basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010, Facebook at Thomas Davis, and Instagram at tomdavis101010.

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