OXFORD, Miss. -- Jarvis Jones is back in the lineup for the East Tennessee State basketball team, and it couldn’t have happened soon enough.â€¨After being academically ineligible for the first semester, Jones made the grades to return to the team.
“It’s exciting,” Jones said. “I’m kind of anxious, just ready to get out there and try to help my team. It’s been real tough seeing us struggle. I know I can contribute to the team.”
Jones has spent the first three years of his career as a role player. Tonight he’ll be stepping into a much bigger role when the Bucs play at Ole Miss. The fifth-year senior guard figures to get a lot of time at the point. With Petey McClain out indefinitely with an ankle injury and nobody else on the team proving to be able to handle the job, Jones seems like the only option.
“I played it a little bit toward the end of the season last year,” Jones said. “I’m comfortable with the position. I have to take care of the ball and limit turnovers.”
For ETSU head coach Murry Bartow, having another option, especially at the point, is a blessing.
“He gives us a little bit of everything,” Bartow said. “We started the year with four seniors and now we’re down to one. To get a veteran back, a guy that’s been in big games, is really gonna help us. He can dribble, pass and shoot. He’s also a guy in our zone ... he’s got great hands and he can gets us some steals. It’s obviously good to get him back.”â€¨The Bucs figure to need all the help they can get tonight facing an Ole Miss team that has steamrolled opponents at Tad Smith Coliseum. The Rebels have won all six of their home games, by an average of 30 points. They beat Lipscomb 91-45 and Arkansas-Little Rock 92-52.
“It’s an SEC team on the road and to be quite honest, their scores were a little scary,” Bartow said. “That’s about all I needed to see. I’m always looking at comparable teams and what they can do. That certainly gave me cause for concern.”â€¨The Rebels (6-1) lost their last outing to Middle Tennessee State in their first road game of the season.â€¨Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy knows Bartow well, having served as an assistant at UAB under the ETSU coach for five years. Kennedy also played collegiately at UAB under Bartow’s father, the late Gene Bartow.â€¨Marshall Henderson, a 6-2 junior guard, leads Ole Miss by averaging 17.1 points a game. Murphy Holloway, a 6-7 senior, averages 15.3 points and a Southeastern Conference-leading 10.1 rebounds. Reginald Buckner, a 6-9 senior, averages 10.4 points a game.â€¨Lester Wilson continues to lead the Bucs, averaging 18.7 points a game. The 6-4 forward is the top freshman scorer in the country.â€¨The Bucs are coming off a 78-55 loss at North Carolina. After a dreadful start, in which they fell behind 34-4 and 42-12 by halftime, they actually outscored the Tar Heels 51-45 to close the game.
“We’ve had some good practices,” Bartow said. “We’re working hard. Our team is working hard, getting better and looking forward to the game Friday night.”â€¨For Jones, it will be a home game of sorts. He’s from Memphis, less than 90 miles from the Ole Miss campus.
“There’s gonna be a lot of family in the stands,” he said. “I just have to come ready to play and not try to force anything.”
Ole Miss leads the series 8-5 and has won the last two, including a 71-50 decision two years ago. ETSU’s last win over the Rebels came in 1985.