If Apronti Jones had things his way, this would be his second season in a Riverdale Baptist uniform. Before his junior year, the 6-foot-3 guard explored the idea of transferring from Wilson to the Upper Marlboro private school, but once word spread that All-Met standout Nigel Johnson was already headed there for his senior season, Jones decided to stay put.
With Johnson headed to Kansas State and Jones fresh off averaging a team-high 11.2 points at Wilson last year, the stage was set for Jones to move to Riverdale this past summer. Since then, Jones has had his share of highlights, which he added to in Friday’s 75-59 win at home against No. 13National Christian, scoring a team-high 15 points for the third-ranked Crusaders. But there was a time when Jones admits to second-guessing his transfer.
“Coach [Lou Wilson] loves shooters, so he brought me in to be one of those guys,” Jones said. “But while I was the man at Wilson, coming in here, I’m playing with all-Americans and other talented guys, so I had to take somewhat of a backseat.”
As Jones worked to find his role on a team that went 12 players deep, he learned the importance of letting the game come to him rather than playing outside of a system that has the Crusaders on a 10-game winning streak.
This newfound patience was on display Friday as Jones dumped pass after pass inside to Louisville recruitChinanu Onuaku, who scored six first-quarter points. Once Onuaku established his presence inside — and the Crusaders (16-2, 1-0 Capital Beltway) established early control by holding National Christian to just two first-quarter field goals — Jones found space along the perimeter.
After draining a three-pointer from the top of the key to start the second period, Jones scored seven more points in the quarter, including another three from the corner just before the buzzer that pushed Riverdale’s halftime lead to 22 points.
“He’s really acclimated himself well into our system,” said Onuaku, who finished with eight points and 11 rebounds. “At first, he wanted to take over games, but I told him if he gets me the ball, I’m going to get it right back to him because he’s such a good shooter.”
Midway through the third quarter, however, it was Jones who served up his teammates. After gathering a defensive rebound, the senior fired an outlet pass downcourt to Onuaku, who tapped it back to Alex Long for a layup while getting fouled, extending Riverdale’s lead to 24 points.
“Coach has really developed our bond as a team,” Jones said. “We trust each other and know any guy Coach puts in there can make an impact.”
As National Christian (9-4, 0-1) picked up the pace to try to rally, Jaquan McKennon (18 points) and Christian Matthews (19 points) helped chip away at the deficit. Still, it wasn’t enough to threaten the Crusaders, who had 11 different players score.
The concerted effort is a welcome sign for Riverdale as it moves on to Saturday night’s anticipated matchup with Capital Beltway rival and eighth-ranked Clinton Christian at Suitland.