Athlete of the Week: Jones has Saints coming of age

cambhoops-joneslayupTime flies when you are having fun, and the past four years have been a blast for Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach senior guard Bernard Jones, albeit fleeting.

It seems like yesterday the then-freshman was called upon to serve as the floor general on a veteran team, and he helped deliver a pair of SCISA Class A state championships in 2013 and 2014. Now the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week finds himself the most experienced member of a young team filled with talented freshmen and sophomores, but the goal is the same.

“It was fun,” Jones said of transferring from Mullins to CAMB as a freshman. “I got to play a huge role on a team of older guys that helped me become a better player. Now I have to take on that leadership role, and I’ve never had to lead a team the way I have this year. We have some great, talented guys but they are so young. I hope I can be a leader and help them win it all.”

A third state title for Jones seemed highly unlikely just a few months ago. After suffering a knee injury in last year’s playoffs that snapped the Saints’ string of state rings, Jones missed the start of the season and the Saints got off to a woeful 3-9 start. The Saints 10-1 since Jones’ return, sweeping their way to the Region 3-2A title and putting themselves in position for another state championship run entering next week’s region tournament.

“We have a young team with a lot of talent but you have to have that senior leadership,” CAMB coach Darren Gore said. “When Bernard come back from his injury, we started being more patient on offense, playing with more energy on defense and we came together as a team. He has a calming effect on our young guys. He’s won a couple of state championships and they look to him as a leader.”

Jones has had to assume a new role amid the young guns on the team. With so many hot hands to choose from, Jones has taken on the role of a distributor and the Saints’ go-to defender. He has had to sacrifice his own offensive numbers to spread the ball around, but what he has lacked in points he has more than made up for in the assists, steals and leadership department.

“If we need him to score, he can score. If we need a stop, he steps up on defense. He makes the big play when we need it,” Gore said. “The experience and maturity he brings helps bring the team together and makes us better.”

Jones doesn’t mind the change in roles, as long as the results are the same. Just as he was raised by older players to expect nothing less than a state championship, Jones has tried to instill the same lofty expectations in the younger Saints.

“That would be a great way to go out, and that’s what we’re striving for,” Jones said of a state title. “I feel like we’ve improved every game, and Coach said we are playing our best basketball at the right time. We are the best team in (Class 2A) when we are playing our best basketball. Now we just have to go out and do it.”

Spoken like a seasoned veteran.

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