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August 1, 2014

Patriot League Pick for Jones

With the calendar turning to August on Friday, one of the top basketball prospects in Virginia from the Class of 2015 decided it was time to end his recruitment. Radford High's Nate Jones, a 6-foot-4 swingman that was chosen as the Group 1A State Player of the Year by VirginiaPreps.com, gave a verbal commitment to Head Coach Dave Paulsen and the Bucknell Bison out of the Patriot League.

For a long time, Jones was rumored to be a shoe-in to go to Radford University since his father, Mike Jones, serves as Head Coach of the Highlanders. Instead, he opted to head out-of-state with several factors weighing into his decision.

"I chose Bucknell because I was very comfortable with the coaching staff. They did a great job of giving me all the info I needed on the program and the school itself. They have a tradition of winning with great fan support and a great atmosphere to play in," Jones told VirginiaPreps.com.

"They were really excited to hear the news when I committed. They're going to use me as more of a '3' than a '2' just because of size. I think I will fit in well with how they play."

Dad gave his full support of the choice as well.

"He thought it was a good fit for me and he really respects what they do at Bucknell," Nate added.

Jones was also recruited by American, Army, Lafayette, New Hampshire and Wofford among others. His offer sheet might've approached double-digits if not for an ankle sprain in July while playing on the AAU circuit with Team Richmond.

After winning a state title as a sophomore, Jones made it a priority before his junior campaign to get stronger so that it would allow him to get to the basket and finish with more ease. His role increased significantly for the Bobcats, who posted a 26-3 overall record and won the Group 1A-West Region Tournament. Even in the team's 49-44 loss to Altavista in the State Championship, he was a force with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting and recorded a game-high 10 rebounds.

For his junior season, Jones averaged 17.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 45.1% from the field (188-of-417), over 40% from three-point range with 30 makes beyond the arc and committed only 40 turnovers in 29 games.

Although the personal accolades came in for Jones with State Player of the Year, Western Gate Conference 45 Player of the Year, First Team All-State and First Team All-Region, he values winning over everything else.

"They are getting a player who is team first and will play hard every possession," Jones noted. "I feel I'll bring them a player that will do a little bit of everything on the court."

He's someone that epitomizes student-athlete, too. In addition to his skills on the basketball court, Jones excels in the classroom by maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

Last season, Bucknell finished with a record of 16-14 overall. That put them just four wins shy of their seventh 20-win season in the past decade. They've been to the NCAA Tournament four times since 2005, beating Kansas nine years ago and Arkansas in 2006.

With his college commitment out of the way, Jones can turn his attention to his senior season. Coach Rick Cormany's squad has captured three state titles since 2009, but they have to replace second-leading scorer Isaiah Phillips, who is headed to Division II Urbana University in Ohio. Having Jones and rising junior guard Marcus Finley, a First Team All-Conference performer as a sophomore, back is a good start point.

"It's a huge relief," Jones admitted. "I've always planned on deciding before the season just so I can play my last year without having to worry about that. My goals are to win as many games as possible and let things go from there. I definitely want to end my last year differently from the previous one."

*** See our Video Interview with Nate Jones from the Hoop Group Southern Jam Fest ***

Matthew Hatfield serves as State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail [email protected], and don't forget to listen to him every Saturday at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.

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