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March 22, 2012

Jones rocks JUCO nationals on Day 2

MORE: Hectic first day at NJCAA Nationals

HUTCHINSON, Kan.- Day 2 of the NJCAA Tournament brought to a conclusion the first round and got things moving forward in the consolation and winner's bracket. Class of 2013 four-star point guard Chris Jones had a huge performance to move Northwest Florida into the winner's bracket while Indian Hills freshman four-star forward Jameel McKay helped propel them to a win in a consolation bracket game.

Jones thriving at Northwest Florida

As a high schooler in his native Memphis at Melrose High and then at Oak Ridge Academy in North Carolina, former Tennessee commitment Chris Jones earned his rep as one of the top 50 players in the class of 2011.

Academics forced him to go the junior college route and he followed the coach who recruited him to Tennessee - Steve Forbes - to Northwest Florida in Niceville.

The electric 5-foot-10 point guard has led his team to a No. 2 ranking nationally and a berth in the NJCAA national tournament.

"I feel like playing in JUCO is making me be more mature and preparing me better for after," Jones told Rivals.com. "I think God has a plan for everyone and he put me in a good situation where I'm learning a lot and getting better."

Considered by many to be the top guard in the junior college ranks, Jones certainly looked the part on Wednesday as he racked up 30 points, six rebounds and four assists in a 70-62 win over Navarro College in front of a gigantic gathering of college coaches.

Despite the moment and his team having had a little bit of a layoff, Jones wasn't phased by the enormity of the game.

"I had the butterflies a little bit like every game but they go away quick," said Jones. "I wasn't nervous though. If you come out nervous you'll do things that you don't usually do."

While he's not the biggest point guard, Jones is one of the toughest. He plays a hard-nosed, flashy style that is built upon making plays off the dribble and getting to the foul line while using his jumper to keep defenders honest. It's a style that worked pretty well for a certain UConn guard in 2011.

"Kemba Walker, that's my guy," said Jones. "I try to model my game after his a lot. He took over the Big East and the NCAA last year and I'm out here trying to take over the JUCO national tournament."

According to Jones, there's been a steady stream of college programs that have made their way out to see him. However, he's not putting together a list yet and is taking his time because he knows he still has another season of JUCO ball left.

"Right now it feels like almost everyone in the nation is recruiting me. I'm feeling the love from just about everybody and listening to everybody," said Jones. "I would like to go to a team that plays my style. I really like to get out and pressure defensively and I really want to win. I also want to be around teammates where all they care about is winning."

McKay becoming high major priority at Indian Hills

During the spring and summer, Jameel McKay caught our eye as an unsigned senior. The Milwaukee native was considering a prep school year and had he gone he would have landed in the 2012 Rivals150. Instead, Academics forced him to the junior college route.

After landing at Indian Hills in Ottumwa, Iowa, the 6-foot-8 forward is making some big noise. Wednesday, he spearheaded the Indian Hills press while scoring 16 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a 79-70 consolation round win over East Mississippi Community College.

"He's the motor of our team out there. He's so athletic and long he makes things happen," said Indian Hills assistant Brandon Burgette. "He gets offensive rebounds and he finishes everything around the basket. He's our double-double guy that we can count on to rebound and he's a monster on the front of our press who makes things happen."

One of the premier junior college freshmen in the country, McKay is a four-star prospect that plays with the heart of a lion and seems to have an endless supply of energy and willingness to do the dirty work.

"He knows that he can get at the top of that press and get deflections and easy scores and it gives him energy," said Burgette. "His energy brings more energy to everybody else on our team."

Wednesday, Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson was front and center to watch and has offered a scholarship. Wichita State has offered, as have Memphis, Marquette and Iowa State while Missouri (also on hand) has become more active in McKay's recruitment.

"I think he'll look for somewhere that can develop him to get some NBA looks," said Burgette. "Coaches that have shown that they can put players in the league and develop their guys will really appeal to him."

Final Day 2 notes and standouts

For the second day in a row, South Plains (Texas) College freshman Yanick Moreira was impressive. He scored 16 points and corralled 10 rebounds while fighting against Monroe College and their talented front line. He's a no brainer at the high major level for the junior college class of 2013 and the native of Angola is a four-star prospect.

With three years of eligibility remaining, combo guard Trency Jackson of Northwest Florida is a serious option for high majors. The 6-foot-2 freshman is a big time athlete, has deep range and can shoot the ball pretty well. He's been offered by the likes of Pittsburgh, Kansas State, Purdue, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, and Wichita State. Head coaches from all of those programs save for Pitt and Cincy were on hand. Pitt did have an assistant in town and Jamie Dixon is in to watch Jackson on Thursday.

How about Oregon head coach Dana Altman. After ending his season Tuesday night in Seattle, Altman hopped on a redeye to Kansas City and then drove the three plus hours to Hutch to watch the national tourney. Among the main guys he was eyeing is sophomore small forward Nick Wiggins of Wabash Valley. The older brother of the nation's #1 class of 2014 prospect Andrew Wiggins, Nick is an explosive 6-foot-6 wing who is at his best attacking in transition and slashing to the rim.

Indian Hills sophomore big man D.J. Bennett is a long and fairly athletic 6-foot-8 post player. He's not particularly thick, but he is quick off the floor and has a good nose for the ball. Among those evaluating him are Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Ball State.

For the second day in a row, South Carolina State commitment Marcus Tarrance of Eastern Oklahoma looked like an absolute steal as he racked up 28 points and 12 rebounds. He's an athletic wing with a versatile game. Tarrance led his team to a 78-70 win over Spartanburg Methodist and a berth in the Final Four. For Spartanburg, freshman wing Ronnell Crockett was huge for the second day in a row. Not only did he score 27 points, but he grabbed a whopping 24 rebounds. Despite only being about 6-foot-3, Crockett managed to grab 36 rebounds total in his first two games while scoring 45 total points.

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