Virginia men’s basketball recruit Teven Jones, a 6-foot-1 point guard from the Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Va., is joining the Cavaliers a semester early and will be able to practice with the team for the remainder of the season, the player’s prep school coach confirmed Wednesday.
Fishburne boys’ basketball coach Ed Huckaby said in a telephone interview that Jones is wrapping up the Virginia enrollment process and will be on campus either Sunday or Monday. A Cavaliers team spokesman said he could not confirm Jones’s early arrival to the team or the university.
Jones signed his letter-of-intent to play at Virginia in November and originally was scheduled to arrive at the school next fall with the rest of the Cavaliers’ 2012 recruiting class. But when Huckaby read about the late-December departures of guard KT Harrell and forward James Johnson from the Virginia program, he said he felt compelled to raise the possibility of Jones joining the team earlier than expected.
The positives for both Jones and the Cavaliers are both obvious and significant. Jones will get a head start on learning the principles of Virginia Coach Tony Bennett’s system, not to mention growing accustomed to the academic demands of the university. The team will gain another skilled practice player. In recent weeks, the Cavaliers have had to rely heavily in practice on walk-ons and assistant coaches to run the scout team.
“Teven’s a plus for U-Va. because he’s a kid that can run the scout team that’s not a player that’s currently playing and sometimes gets moody and says, ‘Well, why am I on the scout team rather than with the main team?’ ” Huckaby said. “In Teven’s case, running the scout team in practice, those are his games every day, so he won’t be pouting or anything because obviously he can’t run with the main group so he doesn’t have an ulterior motive behind what he’s doing. He’s fine with it.”
The Augusta Free Press first reported Jones’s decision to leave Fishburne and enroll at Virginia a semester early. Jones will have four years of collegiate eligibility beginning with the 2012-13 season.
Huckaby said that after he heard about the decisions of Harrell and Johnson to transfer from Virginia, he thought about it for a day and then mentioned to his assistants the idea of Jones heading to the Cavaliers early. Huckaby said Jones already was an academic qualifier and was holding a 3.0 grade-point average while taking college-level courses at Fishburne.
Then Huckaby called Virginia assistant Ritchie McKay and discussed the possibility with him. McKay ran the idea past Bennett, and quickly the wheels were in motion to put the plan into action.
“It was an immediate yes” from Virginia’s coaching staff, Huckaby said. “Their thing was they didn’t want to do anything to hurt our program. That was their concern. I just had to reassure them that our program will be okay. We’ve got 10 guys signed to [Division I] scholarships. My thing was, ‘What’s best for the individual?’ And in this case here, I just really felt it was best for Teven to have the opportunity to move on now and get a jump-start so he’s able to go in and play right away [next season]. That’s the key.”
Huckaby, a former assistant at Wright State, coached Virginia junior guard Jontel Evans at Bethel High (Va.) and said he roots for the Cavaliers. But in this case, he said, his top priority was the best interests of Jones.
After discussing the situation with the Virginia coaching staff, Huckaby sat down with Jones and had a five-minute discussion, Huckaby said.
Jones “looked at the pros, and his thing was, ‘What can I do to help the program?’ ” Huckaby said. “I told him it will be a great opportunity for you to get your feet wet. He was excited.”