Bogan guard Luwane Pipkins is the Bengals’ first scoring option and the player other teams are designed to stop.
James Jones is the player whose still untapped potential is the cause for the greatest excitement for the No. 9 Bengals (12-3). Part of the process is understanding the parameters of his role. His coach said his talent is unlimited. “James Jones is probably the most talented player on our team,” Bogan coach Arthur Goodwin said. “And he has the most upside of anybody we have.
“It’s just a matter of him getting used to playing in those situations, under the bright lights, like Luwane. It’s just a matter of time until he showcases his talent.”
The 6-4 forward is averaging 16 points and more than five rebounds in his first full year as a starter. He burst on the scene during the second half of the season that featured a breakout performance against Simeon. His late-season surge helped the Bengals reach a Class 3A supersectional.
“Going back to last year, I’ve been doing well and giving the team what we need,” Jones said. “This year I have to do the same, even more.”
Jones was pushed into the spotlight, and the nature of expectations impacted him. “Last year he had a big role, and he wasn’t quite used to it,” Pipkins said. “He’s been working very hard in practice, and that’s gotten his confidence up and now he’s going to be the man.”
Goodwin prefers a small three-guard lineup keyed by explosive Massachusetts-bound Pipkins. It gives him multiple ball handlers to manage the defensive pressure in the Public League’s top division, the Red-South, against teams like Simeon and Morgan Park that thrive on pressure.
Jones is playing out his natural position, but the alternative is that taller and more physical defenders are forced to match up with him.
“Most of the time we play against bigger teams and they can’t really stick me, so I just beat them off the dribble,” Jones said.
In practice, Jones is often pitted against 6-8 senior post player Antonio Thomas, Goodwin’s strategy of forcing Jones to learn how to score against bigger players.
“What that does is help him get ready for college,” Goodwin said. “Because it’s going to help him learn how to defend bigger guys. He’s a natural guard, but we need him to help rebound and play defense, so he’s gotten stronger.”
Jones is an explosive leaper and has developed a more consistent shot. He said his own strength is his slashing ability to knife toward the basket. His development has been more incremental, refining and adding different facets to his game.
“I improved my midrange [shot], my ball handling and vision,” Jones said.
His defense is admittedly a work in progress. He is working hard to learn how to defend multiple positions. His name and developing reputation are clearly expanding and moving beyond the city. Jones has generated recruiting interest from Kansas, Georgetown, Nebraska and Saint Louis.
If Pipkins is the team’s constant, Jones is the X-factor.
“If James shows up and averages 17, 18 points, with the rebounds and steals, we’ll be holding a trophy,” Goodwin said.