NBA Draft stock on the rise

ORLANDO – It may have been his first time playing basketball in front of well-known NBA personnel such as Larry Bird, Larry Brown and George Karl, but more importantly it was his last chance to show general managers and scouts that he belongs in the NBA.

Former USF center Solomon Jones spent part of last week at the NBA Pre-Draft Camp at Disney’s Wide World of Sports along with 61 other future NBA hopefuls, participating in drills and games and trying to improve his draft stock.

“This is my last chance to showcase my talents five-on-five,” Jones said Thursday after his team’s second game. “So I’m out here just trying to get a spot (in the draft).”

Fewer than three weeks away from the draft, Jones, who stands tall at 6-foot-10, is trying to become the first USF player drafted since the draft was bumped down to two rounds.

“It’s been good,” Jones said about the camp. “There are a lot of good guys out here, a lot of competition. I’m just having fun, trying to get this spot.”

Jones’ team consisted of 10 players, including one of the highest projected draftees at the camp, UCLA’s Jordan Farmar. Also on Jones’ team were Villanova’s Allan Ray, North Carolina’s David Noel and Ohio State’s Terence Dials.

“I think I have some good teammates,” said Jones, who averaged 13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game during his senior season. “I think everybody tries to go out and play their role, and that’s a good thing about our team – everybody understands their role and tries to fill in that place and tries to take care of business on the court.”

Added Farmar, “We have a bunch of great guys on our team – good players – but they’re all cool guys. (We’re) just playing hard, playing together, trying to be unselfish and just making this thing enjoyable for everybody.”

Despite spending his entire senior season as USF’s starting center, Jones was moved to power forward during the camp, but he didn’t have any problems making the adjustment.

“It’s good (to) showcase my skills,” Jones said. “It feels good to let people know that I can play other positions than just center.”

Farmar, who led the Bruins to the national championship game last season, said he had heard of Jones but never got the chance to see him play. But after playing two games with Jones, Farmar already had a good opinion of the Mount Dora native.

“He’s talented, long (and) athletic,” Farmar said. “He’s been doing a great job trying to crash the boards and make his presence known inside, blocking shots, changing shots and finishing above the rim.”

Now that the camp is over, all Jones can do is continue to train and wait for June 28 to arrive. And after nearly averaging a double-double last season and getting invited to two draft camps, Jones is confident he’ll be in the NBA next season.

“I have to stay confident,” Jones said. “If (I’m) not confident then it won’t happen. I’m confident – with a lot more hard work it’s definitely going to happen.”