The Old Dominion Monarchs were synonymous with winning in the 2000s. From 2004 to 2012 Blaine Taylor averaged over 23 wins per season and lead the Monarchs to four NCAA Tournament appearances. In a year that no one could of predicted everything unraveled at ODU. The Monarchs were in a transition to Conference USA, Blaine Taylor was fired mid-season from issues allegedly stemming from alcohol, and ODU finished with a 5-25 mark, the lowest win total since beginning Division I play in 1979.
To right the ship former Virginia and American head coach Jeff Jones was brought in to save a program that quickly was in an unaccepted tailspin. Jones has always been a bit of a controversial figure in the state of Virginia after being a successful head coach for the University of Virginia and then being dismissed under questionable circumstances in 1998.
Jones' first season didn't start out as planned when the NCAA confirmed that Donte Hill would be ineligible due to playing in an exhibition with Clemson a few years prior. Despite the early blow Old Dominion trudged on through the season with a 18-18 mark and a strip to the CBI Semifinals.
Nearly everyone from last year's team returns this year, besides Dimitri Batten who left for Boston College, and the foundation laid by guys like Aaron Bacote (15.5 ppg) will be greatly enhanced this year due to Jones' efforts. Former Campbell standout Trey Freeman will likely step in at the point right away. Freeman was, arguably, the Big South's top point guard two years ago averaging over 14 points and nearly 6 assists per game for the Camels.
It won't just be Freeman joining the fray as a former adversary, Jonathan Arledge, will also be added to Jones' arsenal. Arledge missed pretty much the whole season at George Mason but averaged 9 points per game the year prior for Paul Hewitt.
Jeff Jones has quickly saved the Old Dominion program that really could have gone off of a cliff in 2013. The Monarchs should have the arsenal to compete with the likes of UTEP, Louisiana Tech, and others in Conference USA. Likely the first gauge for the team will come in the Virgin Islands November 21-24 when the Monarchs compete in Paradise Jam with Clemson, Illinois State, LSU, Nevada, Seton Hall, and others.
Jones will even add more to his arsenal next year when Brandan Stith a 6'7 transfer from East Carolina is eligible. Stith is the sone of current assistant and UVA legend Bryant Stith and averaged nearly 5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game his freshmen year for the Pirates.
Old Dominion is a proud program and a program that needs to be competitive in the mid-major ranks for everyone's benefits. It's good to see the Monarchs rebounding so quickly.