A month ago, when the Virginia men’s basketball team was days removed from losing two of its players to transfers, no one associated with the program expected that a member of its 2012 recruiting class would be practicing with the Cavaliers in a matter of weeks.
But on a recent Tuesday, Teven Jones wore jersey No. 51 as he followed assistant Ritchie McKay from the top of the key to the wing as McKay explained Jones’s scout team role in executing one of the offensive plays of Boston College, Virginia’s next opponent. A 5-foot-11, 175-pound point guard, Jones later said he was given that particular uniform simply because he needed one and it was available.
Starting next fall, Jones said, he’ll be sporting No. 5, the number he’s worn since the ninth grade and one that currently is taken by senior center Assane Sene. By then, if all goes as planned, Jones and the team will have benefited immensely from a rare set of circumstances that landed the player in Charlottesville a semester earlier than planned.
According to university officials, Jones is the 14th student-athlete in any sport to enroll mid-year at Virginia in the past four years. He is the first Virginia men’s basketball recruit to enroll mid-year since at least 1983-84, according to a team spokesman. So indeed, Jones has become part of a unique circumstance.
From the player’s standpoint, Jones will be afforded an opportunity to familiarize himself with Coach Tony Bennett’s system, develop physically through the team’s strength and conditioning program and get a head start on pursuing his college degree.
From the team’s standpoint, the coaches get an opportunity to more extensively evaluate Jones sooner than expected and that can pay dividends in a way that is easy to overlook. The information gained from watching Jones compete in practice in the coming weeks will aid the coaches’ efforts to determine the remaining needs for the 2013 recruiting class.
“I think over time we’ll get a little feel, watching [Jones] work and do some things, just more and more the kind of player he is and his identity as a player,” Bennett said. “You watched him five, six times in the summer, but now you get to see him in this setting, and he’s mostly running the scout team because with these games so frequently we haven’t had practices where we’re really competing. But yeah, that is a plus.”