No quote best summarizes the ups and downs of Lucky Jones' season than the one head coach Andy Toole delivered last night:
"When he plays the way he did tonight, when he plays the way he did Saturday, he's one of the best players in our league. I think sometimes when he tries to do too much, he gets himself in a little bit of trouble. I think his communication to his teammates the last two games has been terrific. I think his shot selection has been very good and you see some of the effort plays, a couple of the offensive rebounds he got tonight, that's vintage Luck. We haven't necessarily seen that all year long and it would be nice to see for the rest of the way out. "
Its clear Toole understands what he has in Jones: a preseason All-NEC selection that is lives up to the billing when he plays within himself. But he hasn't been that guy consistently this season. In the 11 non-conference games he participated in, Jones only managed to connected on just 42 of his 123 total shots, good for 34%.
Jones has since turned that around in conference play, but it's always been about more than just his shooting percentages. There were times Jones dribbled a lot of time off the shot clock before rising into a contested jumper. He'd assert himself at the cost of offensive flow, and even over corrected at times by trying to be more of a facilitator off the bounce and in the lane. That's not the kind of description you'd associate with one of the top players in any conference.
But let's get one thing straight: Lucky Jones is the best player that currently wears a Robert Morris uniform. Yes, freshman guard Marcquise Reed has been an offensive dynamo this season. Yes, junior guard Rodney Pryor has emerged as the team's best perimeter threat. Yet, Jones remains the Colonials best two-way player who is capable of leading the team in scoring and rebounding while playing any of the five positions in RMU's 2-3 zone.
Lost in the shuffle this season is the fact that he became the programs all-time leader in rebounds. Over the last four years, Jones has been on the floor for 82 total victories (team has won 87), with the chance to add more. That also includes 48 wins (team has won 52) against NEC opponents, the most of any player in the conference over that span. That's quite the legacy that he'll leave behind whenever this season ends for Robert Morris.
My guess is that Jones isn't focused on his legacy, although I am sure he'd love to add to it. More importantly, what Jones understands now is that the best way to do that is to help lead his team to wins. Leadership has been a funny thing on this Colonials team as it's often been questioned. With that said, no one questions who it should be, Lucky Jones.
Earlier in the season, it wasn't uncommon for him to talk about the lack of maturity and understanding of the younger players around him during post-game press conferences. Last night, he lauded his teammates for the hard work they've been putting in and identified that it was the team’s unselfishness that led to their lopsided victory over the Wagner Seahawks. Gone was the notion of 'me', replaced by the concept of 'we'.
It's easy to say all the right things after a game that wasn't particularly competitive after the first half. Still, this is the time of year that teams truly begin to take on the personality of their leaders. For RMU and Lucky Jones, that's a combination of substance and style. I am sure if you asked both Toole and Jones, the substance hopefully leads to an NCAA Tournament berth and the style is limited to which player wears the 'hottest' kicks on game day.