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Center plays for NBA dreams at tournament

Jones’ career stats: Points- 581, Rebounds- 470, Blocks- 152

After a 22-loss season and nearly going winless in the Big East, Solomon Jones has played his final game for USF and is taking the next step in his goal of making it to the NBA.

The senior center is in Portsmouth, Va., where he is participating in a four-day tournament with 64 of the nation’s best college basketball players, all of whom are being scouted by the NBA.

Jones arrived in Portsmouth on Tuesday, and without much time to get to know his teammates and coaches, he said he’ll make the adjustments of playing with unfamiliar players during the games.

“We’re just going to have to go out and play hard,” Jones said. “Everybody on our team is going to have to gel together quick and get to know each other, basically just go out and have fun and compete.

“Today we had a walkthrough day. That’s about it. It was just an hour walkthrough just to try to get each other on the same page and get to know each other and each other’s game.”

Jones, who finished the season averaging 13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, is trying to become the first Bull to make it to the NBA since Chucky Atkins in 1999. And Jones’ final game as a senior – in which he scored a career-high 23 points in a 63-56 win against then-No. 20 Georgetown – can only help his chances of making it to the next level.

“I’m just trying to go out, play hard, win the tournament, do my best and compete as hard as I can and expose myself to many different people.”

PIT chairman Mahlon Parker considers Jones to be one in the top four of the eight centers at the tournament. As for Jones, he’s just glad to get the opportunity to play in front of the 208 scouts who are expected to be in attendance.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Jones said in a related Oracle article on March 1. “(I’m) going from somebody that’s kind of hidden that nobody really recognizes to somebody that has a great chance to make it to the next level.”

Jones’ team won it’s first-round game Wednesday night 87-80.

Jones faced two Big East opponents in the game – Connecticut’s Rashad Anderson and Georgetown’s Brandon Bowman – but outscored them both as he finished with 14 points and six rebounds.

“It was a very physical game” Jones said. “The referees just let us play, and that’s what everybody wanted.”