HAMPTON, Va. – Tre Jones is a 6-foot-2 point guard with an efficient jump shot, blow-by speed from baseline-to-baseline and the innate ability to make his teammates better.
He’s also regarded as one of the top floor generals in the 2018 class with offers from college basketball giants such as Duke and Arizona. For all these reasons, he likes his chances to fulfil his ultimate goal of NBA stardom.
“I feel like I’m doing what I can right now to get there,” Jones said.
It’s not an absurd reach when you hear him out.
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As with many of the players at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League this weekend, Jones’ logic is rooted in seeing the success of two-time reigning NBA MVP and world champion Stephen Curry.
“You just look at where he came from and it makes it feel like getting to where you want to be is possible,” said Jones, who runs the show for the Howard Pulley Panthers (Minn.). “When you hear about him in high school, a lot of people were saying he’s too skinny or he’s too small, but he put in the work and it’s paid off.”
ESPN recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin said, even back in high school, Curry had the skill and the work ethic, but college coaches had pause about his physical stature.
Curry was considered a three-star prospect and eventually picked Davidson over schools such as High Point and VCU.
“Everybody would like to say they saw all of this coming for him, but that’s not true. They didn’t see this coming,” Rankin said. “He could play, there’s no doubt about it, but he had performances that were just OK and he was already smaller.
“I think it’s great that younger players see his path as attainable. Anytime you can get positive motivation to better yourself as a player it’s a good thing. All the credit goes to Steph and his work ethic. He built his game from a small house into a mansion.”
Curry’s high school coach at Charlotte Christian, Shonn Brown, said he thought Curry could excel in the right system, but he also recalled some of what he heard during the recruiting process.
“The craziest thing coaches would say, and we heard this a lot, is that he’s not athletic enough,” Brown said. “We would always tell them that he’d be one of the best shooters on your team right now. Just his ability to create his own shot and knock down tough shots is something that is rare.
“Back then they were all about athleticism over some of the basic skills of the game. Obviously, Coach (Bob) McKillop was not one of those guys. He saw and hoped that Steph would play low profile. So it worked out for him. He got a gem.”
Southern Stampede (Ga.) point guard Collin Sexton can relate to Curry’s story of flying under the proverbial radar. Before his breakout season this year in the Nike EYBL, Sexton was being overlooked by bigger colleges.
“It’s definitely frustrating when you know you’re as good as everyone else but no one is recognizing it,” Sexton said. “Then you see Curry and you know that stuff doesn’t matter. His biggest thing was he was the hardest worker and that’s me too. He was just dedicated and he didn’t grow up with cameras following him everywhere and people writing about him being the next big thing. Now he’s the greatest player on the planet. Seeing where he came from makes me feel like I can do the same thing.”
Howard Pulley Panthers coach Antwan Harris said he doesn’t mind players using Curry as an example to justify their dreams as long as they understand “the key to the story.”
“The biggest thing young guys should take from Curry’s path is that he put in more work than the average player,” Harris said. “Chances are Steph Curry was working harder than you are right now. The other thing is that he went to the best fit for him in Davidson. It’s all about being on the floor; you might win a national title, but you’re not going anywhere else if you’re not in the right fit. Kids have to think about the fit not the name.”
NY RENS wing Jordan Tucker said that it’s “weird” to be able to say that he’s further along, in terms of rating, than the back-to-back NBA MVP was at the same point in high school.
“It makes you feel like it’s not as far out of reach as you thought it was before,” said Tucker, who is considered a four-star recruit. “It’s hard to get to the NBA, but Curry just proves that with hard work you can accomplish anything. He’s giving a guy like me a lot more confidence about the future.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY