Alan Dell

Commentary: Jones can learn a lot from Mavs

Gotta believe Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban saw a lot of himself in Dominque Jones before shelling out $3 million to pry the USF guard away from Memphis.

They both have moxy, which is a one word definition of Muhammad Ali in his heyday.

Cuban had been trying to barter his way into the first round of last week’s NBA Draft and convinced Memphis to take three million greenbacks off his hands after the Grizzlies selected Jones with the 25th pick.

Granted, $3 million to Cuban is like coffee and donut money to the general populous, but it showed his interest. This is a guy who keeps NBA vaults full with all he has paid in fines and has reason not to be reckless.

Jones, who led the Big East Conference in scoring, is not shy about expressing his self-confidence, which is a trait dear to Cuban’s heart.

The 21-year-old was one of three guards Memphis selected in the first round and even the most optimistic NBA hopeful had to be thinking someone was going to be moved.

But the 6-foot-5 combo guard is not wired that way.

“I felt like I was going to go in there and compete for a job, beat those guys out and get what was mine. It didn’t matter if you were drafted before or after me,” Jones said. “But when Dallas made the deal for me I felt that was more realistic. I have the type of game that would help them.”

Jones sounds as if he should’ve been a lottery pick. He also has a knack for drawing fouls, which has to endear him to Cuban who believes he is the personal dart board for every NBA official.

Ever since he declared for the draft and began working out for teams, Jones started picking off guys ahead of him. When last Thursday came, most prognosticators had him as a first round pick with Dick Vitale, ESPN’s esteemed professor of college hoops, predicting he would go 24th.

“Dominique has scoring ability and strength,” Vitale said. ”He has to be a more consistent perimeter shooter, but you can say that about a lot of people. Since Mark Cuban invested money in him, they are going to give him a legitimate chance.”

Jones is a combination Picasso/John Dillinger. He is very creative on his slashes to the basket and can be deadly with his long range shooting.

Nothing sounded sweeter to the Lake Wales resident than the voices of Cuban and Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle, who called him shortly after the deal was made.

“They told me basically they were going to blow me up and put me on the map,” Jones said. “Mr. Cuban said to be ready to come in and work hard, which is what I was going to do anyway. I never worked out for them and didn’t think they were interested in me. It is a great situation to learn from a guy like Jason Kidd and playing with Dirk Nowitzki. What more can you ask for?”

The Mavericks might ask a lot, and Jones believes he can deliver. Kidd is at the tail end of his career, and Jason Terry, the Mavs other top guard, will be 33 with 10 years in the league when next season starts.

“I felt like I would go around 20th, but when some teams traded their picks you never knew,” Jones said. “I would rather go 25 to Dallas than 15 somewhere else. I am ready to play right now.”

Bulls head coach Stan Heath would’ve liked Jones to return, but being able to claim he coached USF’s only NBA first round pick is a valuable recruiting tool. He has two of his former Arkansas players in the league, including Ronnie Brewer, selected 14th in the ’06 draft by Utah.

“They saw Dominique work out in Chicago and he really turned heads,” Heath said. “I think his transition will eventually have him move over to the point and who better to learn from than Jason Kidd. I told him to be around Kidd as much as possible and be like a sponge. Dominique impressed teams he worked out for, and as the process went on I thought he would be one of the best guys standing.

“I believe there is a possibility of him starting, and it’s great for our program. It will really help recruiting. Every kid who plays basketball wants to go to the NBA and now they know they can do it at USF.”

Alan Dell, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.