USI’s men’s basketball team has two Kenyon Smiths now. The first is the two-time member of the all-GLVC defensive team. The other goes under the name Ben Jones. Seriously, these guys are almost exact copies of each other when they’re out on the court. Both have muscled upper bodies like NFL defensive backs. More important, each plays defense like they’re the last man between the player he’s guarding and the winning basket — not going to happen.
USI coach Rodney Watson likes to trot out a quote purportedly once said by Albert Einstein, words to the effect that, “Not everything counted counts and not everything that counts is counted.” He applied this to Jones, who’s on-court efforts rarely turn up in the box score or even the most detailed season stats. Regarding Jones’ game in the victory over Lewis in the GLVC Tournament semifinals on Thursday night: “I’m not sure his man ever scored on him,” said Watson. “He guarded (Ryan) Jackson (Lewis’ leading scorer) and (David) Bryant (Lewis’ second-leading scorer). And (Nick) Valla — his shots led to rebounds. Ben Jones played 20 minutes and, I mean, every second was critical.”
Jones played 20 minutes against Lewis. He scored seven points on 3-for-4 shooting that included a critical 3-point basket that kept USI’s offense rolling. He grabbed only two rebounds, but I recall both were in crowds of taller players in which he leapt higher than anybody to grab the ball and, again, keep USI’s game on course. He didn’t have any steals, but he was harassing whoever he was guarding so effectively that the guy must have felt he was in jail with no way out other than perhaps just handing the ball to Jones just to get it over with.
Often Jones replaces Smith to give Smith a rest. More often lately I’ve seen both on the court at the same time. Wonder what USI’s opponents think when they see that? Something must be wrong with their eyes, they must say — they’re seeing double. How does a team’s backcourt prepare for that? Jones can’t possibly be on their scouting report. But that’s probably changing. Ben Jones is getting noticed. But, like Kenyon Smith, it’s not going to make any difference. The headache for Eagles opponents will only continue being doubled.