FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Senior Cameron Jones grew up cheering for USC football and the Los Angeles Lakers. He is an LA guy but on Saturday he will lead his Northern Arizona teammates against his hometown USC in one of the marquee non-conference games of his senior season.
Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. Flagstaff time with the game scheduled for broadcast by Fox Sports Arizona and Fox Sports West. Fans can hear the Lumberjack Radio Network call on 105.1 FM The Big Talker and www.bigtalkerradio.com.
"He is your typical LA guy," said Head Coach Mike Adras. "He is Lakers and Trojans all the way. There will be a lot of Cameron's friends and family at the game. It is a great opportunity for him to go back to Southern California and play in front of quite a few people."
Jones grew up in Los Angeles and attended Los Alamitos High School, leading the team to a 29-5 record and an appearance in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I first round. He averaged 18.1 points per game, earning All-CIF first-team selection and was selected as the Sunset League Most Valuable Player.
Since joining the NAU program, Jones has improved his game each season. He averaged 3.9 points in 31 games as a freshman before scoring 12.7 points a sophomore. He had his breakout season in 2009-10.
Jones was one of three unanimous selections to the All-Big Sky first team last year. He was the only player in the Big Sky Conference to rank among the top 15 in points, rebounds, assists and field goal percentage. He finished the season ranked among the Big Sky leaders in points (19.3, 2nd), rebounds (4.6, 16th), assists (2.8, 11th), field-goal percentage (50.2, 9th), free throw percentage (74.3, 13th) and three-point percentage (42.3, 7th).
Jones declared for the NBA Draft last spring, joining his cousin Landry Fields of Stanford. Fields was eventually taken the second round by the New York Knicks and was recently named NBA Rookie of the Month. Jones decided to return to play his senior season with his teammates, graduate and further his game in college.
"He's become more confident in his game," said Fields. "He's very crafty and that allows for him to be a multi-dimensional scorer. He's also become more of a leader. Not just vocally, but by example."
It has been a good decision. He is leading the team in scoring at 17.6 points per game, scoring 20 or more four times. He scored a season-high 27 points on Wednesday against Texas-Pan American and his team has a seven-game winning streak.
"I think the team is getting better every day" said Jones. "Different teams throw different stuff at me which is different that last year. I still feel like I pick my spots and work on my defense every game. We are really meshing this year and this win streak has been real big for us. I have not had a win streak since my freshman year."
Good games for Jones in the next two contests against USC and Arizona will go a long way in developing his professional resume.
"Last year I had a good game at Arizona," said Jones, who scored a career-high 29 points against the Wildcats. "I will try to continue to do the same thing this year. What I really want to do this year is win. I came close my freshman year beating UA. It would be two great wins for us if we can go in there and win. If we can beat a Pac-10 school I would be real happy."
Fields, a former Pac-10 standout, has confidence in his cousin.
"He'll do fine," said Fields. "I never worry about his game because he always rises to the occasion of any opponent, just look at his past games against Arizona."
His team-first attitude is one of the reasons he is the respected leader of the squad. Classmate Shane Johannsen has played with Jones his entire career and says his leadership skills stand out this season.
"I think the biggest thing is his leadership skills," said Johannsen. "Coming in as a freshman he was a quiet guy. He has really stepped up and is really someone you can look up to whether you are a fellow senior like me or a new freshman."
Jones, who is one of 30 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award in basketball, will get his first chance on Saturday to play in the Galen Center in front of the hometown fans.
"I have never played in the Galen Center but I used to watch my cousin play there," said Jones. "I always liked USC growing up and watched them on TV all the time. It will be cool playing against them."