Jones commits to SIU ahead of senior season


Jonah Charlton

Senior Lance Jones dribbles past defenders at the state semi-final game last spring.

Eli Cohen and Chris Werner

Star senior Lance Jones is heading into his last year as a player for ETHS, but it will be the first season of his high school career without college coaches watching him.

Jones committed to Southern Illinois University (SIU) via Twitter on Friday, Aug 24, lifting the pressure of recruitment off his shoulders.

“This whole recruiting process got stressful,” Jones explained. “Schools trying to persuade you to come to their program gets overwhelming. But I was patient and did the right thing for me.”

By choosing SIU, Jones turned down offers from other schools in pursuit of his talents including University of Alabama at Birmingham, Western Illinois University, Illinois State University and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“I decided on SIU because they were loyal and stayed with me throughout the whole process,” Jones said. “Their loyalty attracted me to them and made my decision easier.”

Jones also garnered interest from schools that have more well-known basketball programs, including multiple Big Ten universities.

The team’s 2016-17 season schedule took Evanston, and Jones who was then a sophomore, to Ohio for the Lebron James Classic and South Carolina for the Beach Ball Classic, largely due to Nojel Eastern’s national recruitment. The spotlight that Eastern brought to ETHS basketball helped to further springboard Jones into the recruitment process.

“We got to play a National schedule,” Jones said. “We got to play in front of a lot of different college coaches which helped me a lot because they got to see my game at a young age.”

During that season and the national tournaments, Jones showed flashes of greatness and steadily improved vaulting him into a starting role for the state playoffs.

“Lance has grown up a lot in these last 3 years,” coach Mike Ellis said. “Our team isn’t playing for the state championship at the final four down in Peoria last season without Lance’s growth and development.”

The 6’1” guard was one of the team’s most vocal and passionate leaders during the run to the final four last year, playing well on both sides of the ball.

Jones was one of the team’s top scores last season, averaging 15.3 points per game. In addition, he accumulated 20 points or more in nine games last year.

While Jones was a prolific scorer last season, it is arguable that his best attribute was his tenacious defense.

Jones averaged more than two steals per game and had nine games with at least four takeaways.

Jones’ outstanding strength and athletic ability was evident on defense throughout the year, with his most memorable play coming in the closing seconds of Evanston’s first game at New Trier.

Jones chased Trevians’ Griffin Ryan the length of the court and blocked his layup attempt, a Lebron-James-esque chase down, to force overtime. Evanston eventually won the game.

In that contest, Jones tallied 15 points, eight rebounds, six steals and four assists. He also played over 32 minutes.

Jones’ most impressive statistical game came against Geneva, a day after Blake Peters’ heroic shot. Jones shot 72 percent from the field and finished with 28 points, five rebounds, and three steals.

While Jones is the first member of this year’s senior class to commit to playing college basketball, he likely won’t be the last. Fellow senior guards Jaheim Holden and Ryan Bost are more than capable of making the leap to the Division I level. All three are much more than just basketball players and that’s a big part of the DI recruitment process.  

“The school has to want you; they only have 12 scholarships they can give away,” Ellis explained. “You have to impress these college coaches, and you do that, not only with the way you play, but by being a high character person, getting solid grades in the classroom, and you compete, and be a good teammate.”