Some people call Dominique Jones cocky. Others call him confident.
“His teachers in high school would call it arrogance,” said his father, Norman Jones.
Whatever it’s called, South Florida’s dynamic guard uses attitude to fuel his game on the basketball court.
“I’m very confident in myself,” Jones said. “I’d say it’s about 75 percent confidence and 25 percent cockiness. I don’t care what people want to call it, though, because everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”
That includes Jones. Before the Bulls hosted Villanova on Jan. 24, he was asked what he thought of the Wildcats’ all-Big East guard Scottie Reynolds.
“Who?” Jones said. “Scottie who? I know we play Villanova, but I have no idea who this ‘Scottie’ is.”
In typical Jones fashion, he outscored Reynolds in the game, despite a USF loss.
Jones said he lets his confident nature serve as motivation on the basketball court.
“There are a lot of expectations that come with being in my position — but I like it,” he said.
With the help of a current NBA player, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard expects to play professionally soon.
“Nique,” as he’s known by the team, is a close “homeboy” of Phoenix Suns forward Amare Stoudemire. Both are from Lake Wales, where Jones grew up.
Jones played with Stoudemire’s sponsored AAU team in high school, and the two regularly exchange text messages and phone calls.
“They hang out a lot during the summer,” Jones’ father said. “He’s been a good figure in Dominique’s life. He prepares him to get better on the basketball court.”
Jones said Stoudemire is helping him prepare for the next level.
“He just lets me know how my future job is going to be,” Jones said of playing in the NBA.
With the way Jones has been playing this season, he has good reason to have that attitude.
Jones, who is averaging 18.3 points per game, is ranked sixth in scoring in the Big East. He averaged 18.3 in non-conference play, but has since increased that average to 19.9 in Big East games.
That’s impressive, considering the Big East had nine teams ranked in the top 25 at one point this season.
“I don’t know where we’d be without Dominique,” said USF coach Stan Heath two weeks ago.
Jones’ father said he didn’t expect his son to have so much success this early in his career. Jones, a sophomore, was overlooked by more prestigious schools coming out of high school.
“It’s a bit overwhelming because he’s played well before, but not at this level,” he said. “I expected it, but not this fast. The main thing for him was to be able to play against this kind of competition in the Big East. He always felt the best was in this conference.”
Jones said he’s considering leaving early for the NBA draft.
“I think about the NBA every day, but my main focus right now is the team at South Florida,” he said. “I like it here, but it’s too much work. I don’t like schoolwork too much.”
If Jones were to leave for the NBA after this season, it would probably be after consulting with his father.
“That’s my best friend,” Jones said.
His father, however, believes the Bulls’ leader has a chance to do well in the NBA if he keeps his head straight.
“I think it is very much a possibility for him to play in the NBA,” he said. “He has a good shot.”
It’s confidence — or arrogance — that will get him to the next level.
“I think that’s his makeup, and that’s something I never want to take away from him,” Heath said. “He’s very confident, and you want that. Sometimes that can have a negative effect, but I don’t think his is. He’s confident in his ability to do things out there on the court.”
That is, of course, if his teammates can give him the ball.
After a stretch in January that saw him score more than 20 points in four straight games, Jones has struggled in the past three straight USF losses.
Senior guard Jesus Verdejo blamed the losing streak on the team.
“We need to get Dominique involved more in the offense,” he said after an 80-54 loss to Louisville on Saturday. “It’s our job to get him the ball, and we aren’t able to do so.”
Jones said he will focus on developing his game for the remainder of the season. The Bulls are 7-14 this year and are well out of contention for postseason play.
“I’m just going out there and playing basketball,” he said.