David Jones’ leadership fills void in team’s recent struggles


Donald Crocker

DePaul men’s basketball forward David Jones celebrating after the team’s 96-92 win over Seton Hall on Jan. 13.

DePaul has had an up-and-down season so far, especially when it comes to conference play. The team has only won one conference game, with most of the recent games being played without the team’s star player, senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty. But one of the key players that has stepped up in his absence is sophomore forward David Jones.

Jones has played a pivotal role as the team’s second-leading scorer. However, Jones almost did not come to DePaul — he didn’t even know that DePaul offered him a scholarship until the last minute.

“The journey to DePaul was long,” Jones said. “From high school, I didn’t even know that I had an offer from DePaul until the last minute.”

Jones chose DePaul because of one factor the other schools could not offer: playing time.

“I chose DePaul, because I was going to get a lot of playing time, which is what you need in college to show your game and talent to get to the next level,” Jones said.

Since his arrival, Jones has taken advantage of his opportunities. He is currently averaging 14 points a game while shooting 43 percent from the field, but he has also hit a wall offensively, especially in conference play.

In the middle of the conference rival game against No. 18 Seton Hall, Freeman-Liberty went down with a groin injury. At that moment, Jones knew that he had to step up.

“Somebody has to step up,” Jones said. “Somebody has to help the team one way or another to win games. We are trying to figure that out right now.”

During Freeman-Liberty’s absence, Jones stepped up and brought the team its first conference win against Seton Hall. Since then, however, the team went on a four-game losing streak.

Jones’ offensive output has dipped during that stretch. Overall, he is averaging 11 points on 32 percent shooting from the field against conference opponents this season. Jones acknowledges his offensive struggles, but won’t let that stop him from making an impact on the game.

“I can do anything for my team,” he said. “Defense, rebound the ball, scoring, giving energy to my teammates even though I am not playing. I feel like I can help the team in many ways.”

As a leader, Jones also tries to bring a calming presence to the team — an attribute that he learned last season and strives to bring to the team in hard times. He admits that it has been a challenge, but he believes it is necessary and is doing his part in keeping the team together.

“[I learned] to stay calm, stay together and stay with your teammates because when the game gets tough and somebody gets their way the team can get ugly,” Jones said. “It’s been kind of hard, but I feel like I’ve been doing a good job of keeping the team together.”

Head coach Tony Stubblefield praised Jones for his leadership and work ethic, expressing faith that Jones will break out of his offensive slump over time.

“David is a competitor,” Stubblefield said after their conference loss to UConn. “I think he has been working extremely hard. He is not being as productive offensively as he would like to be, but he will get there. He just has to stay positive; he’s been great for us.”

Teammate sophomore guard Jalen Terry talked about how his relationship with Jones has helped him throughout the season, including on the court during Freeman-Liberty’s absence.

“On the court [Jones] plays hard,” Terry said. “He tells us to be tough and brings us energy. He makes sure everybody is playing tough. It is fun knowing that David has my back and I have his and he has everybody else’s back. It’s fun to be around him.”

Terry is thankful for Jones’ positivity. Whenever he has a bad game, Jones’ comfort helps Terry improve in preparation for the next game.

“[Jones] tells me to keep my head up,” Terry said. “When I don’t play well he always tells me to keep my head up.”

Although there is not a timetable for Freeman-Liberty’s return, Jones emphasized that when Freeman-Liberty comes back, he’s not changing his leadership style. He will continue to do whatever it takes to help the team win.

“I can help the team in many ways,” Jones said. “Even when I am not scoring the ball or not playing, I can always play defense when Javon is scoring the ball. I can rebound. I can talk through the game and keep everyone together.”