BANGOR — Josh Jones has traveled far and wide in pursuit of the ultimate college basketball experience.
Since graduating from Erskine Academy in South China in 2005, the talented forward has attended prep school, a junior college, a Division II program and a Division III school.
He has finally found a home at his final stop — Husson University in Bangor.
“It’s been a great fit,” said the senior from Jefferson. “It’s a great group of people to be playing with every day.”
Jones brought with him to Husson an abundance of basketball skills and athletic ability, in addition to a wealth of practical experience. The result has been a stellar individual career and two successful seasons for the Eagles.
“I think he’s grown to really understand the bigger picture,” said Husson men’s basketball coach Warren Caruso. “He’s made himself not only a better basketball player but a better person as well.”
Jones, 23, has been a dominating force in the frontcourt for Husson (19-5, 12-1 North Atlantic Conference), the league regular-season champ.
In NAC play, the 6-foot-4 leaper ranks among the top six in several categories. He is first in rebounds per game (11.4) and free throws (65) and is second in offensive rebounds (43).
Jones is third in field goals (87) and steals (28), fourth in scoring average (19.1) and sixth in field-goal percentage (.518), all of which should place him among the candidates for NAC Player of the Year.
“His versatility really makes him a unique commodity on the floor,” Caruso said. “Josh is our leader, our guy that does a little bit of everything.”
Jones is among a handful of players Caruso has coached who averaged a double-double in points and rebounds. He has done it two years in a row.
Jones was a BDN All-Maine second-team choice for coach Tim Bonsant in 2005 and set his sights on the highest level of basketball possible. He chose to transition toward that goal at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield.
“I definitely wanted to be a scholarship player, hence why I went to MCI,” explained Jones, who moved to Maine from his native Arizona with his mother, Sarah Jones, and his two siblings.
Caruso said he recruited Jones aggressively in high school, but respected his choice to chase his dream elsewhere.
Jones’ second postgraduate stop was Olney (Ill.) Central College, where he found out what he was up against.
“It was definitely a reality check, definitely opened my eyes,” Jones said.
His efforts there helped earn him a scholarship at the University of Texas-Permian Basin, an NCAA Division II school in Odessa. Jones was a starter for the Falcons during 2007-08, but had some personal issues and left during his second year.
With his college eligibility clock ticking down, Jones opted to return to Maine, where he would finally be able to play in front of his mother.
Jones chose Husson because of his familiarity with Caruso and his friendship with a team member.
“Knowing my mom was up here and how good of a program it was, and knowing Matt MacKenzie and coach Caruso from high school when he was recruiting me, I decided to come up here and play.”
Jones admitted his travels helped him grow.
“It definitely helped me build character and find myself,” he explained. “On the floor, it reminded me to keep going hard every day. (At each school) I had to show that I was worth being put in, being the new guy and all.”
After sitting out a year under NCAA transfer rules, Jones settled in at Husson. He has continued to learn and excel on the court and in the classroom.
His success has been part of the overall growth process college student-athletes encounter.
“The thing that I’m really proud of Josh is, he’s matured tremendously over the three years he’s been here, across the board,” Caruso said. “Athletically, he’s always been gifted, but he’s understood a greater role than just being the leading scorer. His academics have improved every semester, and he’s been a good community member on campus.”
On the basketball court, Jones continues to serve as a catalyst. He finishes well and draws fouls playing in the paint, but also can score from the perimeter.
Jones’ ability to block shots can fire up the Husson defense and the crowd, but he is perhaps at his most exciting in transition with his dunks.
“He’s had a highlight reel full of dunks throughout the season and moves that really showcase his athleticism,” Caruso said.
As his college career winds down, Jones is looking ahead to find other ways to make an impact. He has relished the chance to be a role model for his younger brother and sister.
“We don’t have any father in the picture, so that’s huge,” he said. “It’s good to be able to open their eyes.”
Once Jones receives his degree in physical education, he hopes to become a teacher and coach. In the meantime, he’ll try to lead the Eagles to a NAC championship and an NCAA Division III tournament berth.
“Everyone wants to go all the way,” he said.