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Jones improves draft stock

Andre Hall isn’t the only USF athlete spending his spring trying to improve his draft stock.

Solomon Jones, who is trying to become the first Bull since Chucky Atkins in 1999 to make it to the NBA, helped lead his team to a championship Saturday at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT) in Virginia.

With more than 200 NBA scouts in attendance and 64 of college basketball’s best players taking part, Jones scored in double figures in all three games, including 16 in the championship game.

“My whole mentality was to just go out and play well. I really wasn’t looking to score the ball, but it happened,” Jones said. “I was just looking to run the floor hard, rebound and block shots.”

Jones, who nearly averaged a double-double in the tournament (14 points and 9.7 rebounds), made the all-tournament team and talked to scouts from the Utah Jazz and Charlotte Bobcats.

“From what I heard from NBA people, Solomon really helped himself,” PIT chairman Mahlon Parker said. “I do think he improved his stock, tremendously.”

Jones is in the process of signing with an agent, and he’ll continue to work out and train at USF until the NBA draft, which will be on June 28 in New York.

“From now on, I’m just going to go into a harder mode of working out. Starting this week, I’m just going to be training every day,” Jones said. “No days off from here, there’s no looking back.”

If Jones gets drafted, he’ll be the first player from USF to do so since Curtis Kitchen was drafted by Seattle in 1986. And because the draft is only two rounds now, Jones will become the first Bull to be drafted earlier than the third round. Atkins plays in the NBA but signed as a free agent.

Jones is confident he’ll be drafted, and he feels his performances at the PIT helped him get closer to achieving that goal.

“It was a good opportunity, and I just made the best of it,” Jones said. “I have a good sense that (making it to the NBA) will happen for me.”