January 3, 1999
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
University of Wyoming forward LeDarion Jones is only a junior, but he has already experienced more in his time than most collegiate student-athletes do in an entire career.
Jones started out at Clemson University, where he was a major contributor early in his career there, but saw his playing time decrease as time wore on. So when the opportunity to join former Clemson assistant coach Larry Shyatt at Wyoming came about, he couldnt pass it up.
After sitting out the 1997-98 season due to the transfer, Jones was eligible as a junior for the 1998-99 season. But as perfect as things seemed, Jones was slated to be a force for Wyoming under a coach that he loved in Shyatt, a number of events fell into place and Jones situation was altered.
Shyatt ended up returning to Clemson as head coach following the 1997-98 season, leaving Jones behind. But as quickly as Shyatt left, new Wyoming head coach Steve McClain stepped in with a new, more exciting brand of basketball.
The 1998-99 season has seen Jones start every game for Wyoming. He is the Pokes second leading scorer averaging 14.9 points per game.
This season Wyoming is playing an uptempo, fast-paced brand of basketball, a far cry from the deliberate, slow-pace under Shyatt.
The change in style is just fine with Jones. "This style is easier to adjust to," said Jones. "Playing uptempo and up and down is basketball. Lots of kids really like this style and want to play it. And as a team, we feel pretty comfortable with the new system."
Wyoming has only two seniors on this years squad, and those two are walk-on players. But there are six juniors, and they all hold important roles with the Cowboys. "Im just one of the leaders on this team," said Jones. "Youve got to be a leader through the rough times and the good times. Anybody can come to me and ask me anything they need to."
In head coach Steve McClain, Jones has his third head coach in as many years. How is Jones with the new Cowboy leader? "Coach McClain and I get along really well," said Jones. "He is a really enthused coach. He wants to win every game and thinks that we should win every game. We have a good atmosphere here. All the players get along, were just one big, happy family."
While attending high school in Bartow, Fla., Jones was named the Florida 4-A Player of the Year as a senior, along with being a First-Team All-State selection. Then Jones was off to the mild climate of Clemson, S.C. So how are things different for Jones with the ever-changing weather in Laramie?
"There was a little culture shock coming out here," Jones said. "But as long as the heat works, Im just fine. Basketball is played indoors anyway, so the weather doesnt matter."
Jones is very successful in the classroom at UW as well, and he credits part of that to sitting out last year. "By sitting out last year, I could concentrate on school. I got my grade-point-average up real high. I think its important to establish that teacher-student relationship. That way, the teacher gets a better understanding of our situation and helps us keep up."
He is majoring in industrial technology, and with that hopes to become a teacher. "Industrial technology covers a lot," Jones said. "It can be drafting and includes lots of woodworking. I just like building things and rearranging them."
With two years of full-time action ahead of him, Jones thinks that there may be some big things ahead for the Cowboys. "If we keep getting guys to contribute, the starters and all of our bench players, we can go a long ways. Hopefully we can get on a roll and then just keep it going."
All of this comes from a man who was part of two NCAA Tournament teams at Clemson, including making it to Sweet 16 in the 1996-97 season. "That is an atmosphere that every college player wants to be part of. Hopefully we can experience that here."
Although his time at Wyoming is far from over, Jones hopes to leave his mark in Laramie, "I want to be remembered as a complete player. A nice guy who everybody got along with. But I wouldnt mind breaking some records either. I just want to be successful."
After he leaves Laramie a professional basketball career may be in store for Jones. But if that doesnt work out, its okay with him. "If someday I can help kids by teaching them and coaching them on the basketball court, then my job is done."
By Dusty Clements
Wyoming Sports Information