Q&A with Jeff Jones
Freshman guard Jeff Jones is competing for playing time during his first season as a Cavalier after a stellar career at Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill, Pa. Jones and the rest of the Virginia squad play an exhibition game Sunday at 3 p.m. against Carson-Newman in John Paul Jones Arena.
Question: How has the transition from high school to college basketball gone for you to this point?
Jones: “The college game is more physical and there is more working out. I always worked out every day in high school, but now I work out to my full potential every day. That’s something you just need to get used to. Mainly the difference is mental.”
Question: Ultimately, what helped you decide to attend Virginia?
Jones: “It was mainly the coaches and the players. It’s a good group of guys. Coach Leitao really cares for his guys. He wants the best for everyone on the team. That’s something I saw in him. His desire is to get his players to play to the best of their abilities and that’s something I want to do.”
Question: Have the practices at Virginia been what you expected them to be?
Jones: “Yes, they are really intense and high energy every single second. You have to be intense and on top of your game all the time. Everybody can play and everybody is trying to get a spot.”
Question: Did the veteran players help prepare you for what the practices would be like and have they helped you during the early part of preseason practice?
Jones: “Definitely, because as a freshman you’re always saying what’s next? How’s the first practice going to be? How’s the first conditioning workout going to be? They tell you to be prepared, to be mentally prepared.”
Question: Coach Leitao has described you as a scorer. How do you view yourself as a player?
Jones: “I think of myself as a basketball player. I feel I can score, play defense, rebound. There are a lot of aspects to the game and Coach Leitao just wants us to play hard.”
Question: If you had to pick an area of the game that’s a particular focus for you right now, what would it be?
Jones: “Playing hard every single second on defense. Everybody at this level is good and has an offensive game. Every team has offensive weapons and you just have to play defense every single second. That’s something I’ve learned from Coach Leitao and is something I’m trying to do.”
Question: Are you pretty close with the other first-year players?
Jones: “Oh yes. Mustapha, Mike, Sammy and I connected from day one. From the first day it seemed like we’d known each other for a long time. On the court we try to help each other get better and off the court we’re almost like best friends.”
Question: Is it too early to have a sense of what your role might be on this team?
Jones: “My role is whatever Coach Leitao wants my role to be. If he wants me to go out there and be a rebounder, or a scorer or to play pressure defense, whatever it might be that’s what I’ll do. I’ll do whatever it takes to help this team.”
Question: Do you feel you’re learning and grasping what Coach Leitao and the other coaches have been teaching?
Jones: “Coach Leitao teaches us to play hard. I know right now we’re going to make a ton of mistakes. I’m trying to learn everything I can from him and the players every day. I take every practice seriously because that’s a day I can be learning. I’m just trying to play hard and learn from my mistakes.”
Question: Are you anxious for the games to begin or do you feel the more you practice the more you learn?
Jones: “You practice to play the games. This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life, ever since I was a little kid working out with my Dad every day. I’ve dreamed about playing in the ACC. Every practice I’m going hard just waiting for the opportunity to go on that court and prove myself.”
Question: What do you like to do away from basketball?
Jones: “I like just spending time with my friends and having a good time. Just enjoying college, having the camaraderie with everybody on the team and meeting people not on the team.”