Throughout Duke's early practices, Coach K consistently praised Matt Jones. This is not an uncommon practice and I did not think too much of it. Duke has four other great guards, two seniors and two starters from last year’s Elite Eight team. I, like many other people, assumed there was little Matt Jones could do to get playing time over these four talented guards. Duke has yet to play an actual game for this season, but we appear to be wrong. Matt Jones has been extremely impressive thus far and it appears Coach K will be forced to play Matt Jones regular minutes.
At Countdown to Craziness, Matt Jones played well despite apparent nerves. He did not have his best shooting day, but compiled 9 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds and got to the line for 8 free throw attempts (though he made just 3). Alone, this was not outstanding, but he improved greatly in the exhibition game against Bowie State. In the exhibition game, Jones scored 15 points on just 9 shots from the field and also contributed 4 rebounds in 20 minutes. It was just an exhibition game, but he played admirably and played the fourth most minutes of any Duke player. Whether there is a spot for Matt Jones is up for debate but he has certainly proven himself thus far.
While the rest of Duke's guards have great credentials, they have not performed to the best of their ability so far. Rasheed Sulaimon has been able to score, but has not done so at a very efficient pace (6-23 from the field). Quinn Cook scored just 2 points with 3 assists but 2 turnovers against Bowie State. Andre Dawkins has made just 1 three pointer on 10 attempts between the two exhibition games. Tyler Thornton has been his usually gritty self, but still lacks a potent offensive game, scoring just 5 points between the two games. While every other guard has seemed to disappoint so far, Matt Jones has answered the call.
The rest of Duke's guards will continue to improve as the season goes on, but Matt Jones has earned minutes in my book. In a very small sample size, Matt Jones has greatly outplayed the rest of the guards. He will not be a starter for this team, but hopefully his performances will push the starters to improve their games. Even if the other guards step up to the task, I think Matt Jones has begun to prove himself as a viable option to Coach K, and it will be very interesting to see how large of a role he has going forward. If it were up to me, I would find some way to get Matt Jones playing time because he certainly deserves it.
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