Anthony Jones is a solitary figure practicing his arcs and parabolas while the rest of the Runnin' Rebels hold an informal contest to see who can throw up the most junk.
Jones doesn't do junk. He is too proper for that, having come from the school of thought that says the best part of the jump shot is the elbow grease. Which makes the 6-foot-6 forward, formerly of Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., and Georgetown University, something of an incongruity in the UNLV program.
But somehow the impassive senior with the perfect stance and the rare, woebegone smile has become an integral part of the Nevada-Las Vegas basketball team. Averaging 17.9 points, he is its second-leading scorer and one of its most popular, with an array of swooping jams and picture-book jumpers.
He will be one of Maryland's chief problems when the Terrapins (19-13) meet the Runnin' Rebels (32-4) Sunday in the second round of the NCAA West regional at Long Beach Arena (7 p.m. EST).
"I feel at home at UNLV," Jones said. "I'm comfortable with the atmosphere. We take care of business, but it's loose. Everyone has fun, everyone relaxes, and that's what's best for me."
Jones' newly found niche at UNLV is a direct contrast to his experience at Georgetown. Only just two years ago, the former high school all-America was playing, but not much, for the structured Hoyas.
Jones spent two seasons at Georgetown, starting at second guard as a freshman. But he saw limited playing time his sophomore year and got in touch with UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian, who originally recruited him out of Dunbar. After sitting out the required year, he returned to the court last season to average 13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists for the Rebels.
"I don't have anything against Georgetown," he said. "I had fun there. I just wasn't happy with my playing time."
He has had all he wants at UNLV. He has started in 40 straight games and 64 of the last 65, and his 1,038 points place him 17th on the all-time UNLV list. Jones, forward Armon Gilliam and guard Fred Banks have combined to score 1,786 of UNLV's 2,780 points. Jones has led the team in scoring in 11 games and has been UNLV player of the week three times.
"How could Georgetown not need this guy?" Tarkanian asked before the season.
Actually, the Hoyas could have used him. But Jones felt himself being obscured in a program that was overflowing with talent and revolved around Patrick Ewing. That did not sit well with a theater arts major who wanted to move to the forefront of the offense.
"We built the offense around Patrick," Jones said. "Coach John Thompson had more confidence in Patrick than in me. . . . I felt myself starting to become a role player instead of an individual who played an important part."
According to Tarkanian, Jones plays such an important part at UNLV largely because of what he learned at Georgetown. He is reputed to be the Runnin' Rebels' most collected player as well as their most consistent.
"He rates with the best," Tarkanian said, "because every day he comes to work. He's paid the price to be successful."
Jones says he brought a legacy of hard work away from Georgetown. The rigid structure of the program rubbed him the wrong way, but the habits he took away have made him the informal floor leader at UNLV.
"I know they look up to me because of my work," he said. "It's because of what I do in practice. Coach looks up to me in pressure situations, I guess because of the experience that I have."
Still, Jones seems slightly out of place at UNLV. And although he says Las Vegas is a town where "there's always something going on to keep you busy," he concedes that he has some regrets about playing in the West.
For one, his accomplishments tend to go unnoticed in the East. Against Maryland earlier this season, he was particularly gratified to hit the winning shot for a 64-63 overtime victory.
"I miss the East," he said. "I don't miss the weather. But I'm sure my friends would get into it if I was playing well back there. Even in high school people knew who I was, but now I don't think they do as much. It wasn't until we played Maryland that they realized I was back in the groove."