Richmond coach Chris Mooney sounded almost apologetic as he considered and responded to what the Spiders need from senior guard ShawnDre’ Jones.
“Everything,” Mooney said. “That’s the hard part. That’s where so much responsibility is on our older players.”
Indeed, the 6-0, 165-pound Jones carries quite a load on his slender shoulders. He is the lead returning guard and one of three experienced seniors on a team that has seven freshmen and sophomores.
“My role this year is to do everything that we need,” Jones said. “If we need me to score points in a game, fine, I’ll do that. If we need me to be more of a facilitator, I’ll do that. If we need me to just go out there and lead guys to where they have to be, I’ll do that.
“My job this year is to make sure everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to do, be the leader of this team and supply us with everything a senior should do when the team needs him.”
Jones burst out of the chute with a 31-point game in a win against VMI. Through the first three games, he shot 56 percent from the field and 58 percent from 3-point range.
He was a complementary piece in the Spiders’ 65-52 win Tuesday against Hampton University, due largely to foul trouble that chopped up his playing time. He finished with nine points, on 3-for-8 shooting, and three assists. He remains the team’s leading scorer, at 19.5 points per game, and shoots better than 50 percent from the field.
“I feel like I’m playing OK. There’s a lot of stuff I can do better – the main thing being to stay out of foul trouble,” Jones said with a chuckle. “There’s a lot of room for improvement this year.”
Choppiness aside, he still had several moments versus Hampton. He had a pretty drive in transition, where he came down the left side of the court, crossed over and shook a defender near the 3-point line, then drew contact in the lane and converted with his left hand for a three-point play.
He hit a baseline floater from the left side in the second half, again drawing contact and finishing a three-point play as the Spiders pulled away. A minute later, he drove to the basket, drew the defense and then hooked an overhead pass behind him to fellow senior T.J. Cline, who buried a 3-pointer. He then found De’Monte Buckingham sneaking along the baseline for an alley-oop layin.
“He’s a scorer,” Mooney said, “but he also has an incredibly good feel for the game. He’s savvy. We certainly don’t need him to have foul trouble. That would be the No. 1 thing. And he has to really help other guys be good players. So many things are thrown his way, but he’s unbelievably coachable. He has a great way of understanding what’s being said. But there is a lot on him, not only for himself, but to distribute to other guys so that we can be better.”
Jones is the latest in the Spiders’ recent lineage of quality, productive guards that includes Kevin Anderson, Darien Brothers, Cedrick Lindsay and Kendell Anthony. Anderson and Anthony are among the top four scorers in Richmond history, and Jones played alongside Lindsay and Anthony.
“Watching those guys and being roommates with those guys,” Jones said, “seeing their mentality and their approach and everything that goes into how they stepped into the game, that helped me a lot.”
The Spiders (3-1) prepare for a weekend in Brooklyn as part of the Barclays Center Classic. They face Maryland on Friday at 9:30 on ASN and then either Kansas State or Boston College on Saturday, at a time to be determined, also on ASN.
Richmond relishes the opportunity to play power conference opponents, particularly on a neutral court. The Spiders historically have fared well, witness their 2011 run to the NCAA Sweet 16 and tournament wins against South Carolina, Auburn, Indiana and Georgia Tech. Last season, they defeated California and Wake Forest, as well as NCAA Tournament team Northern Iowa.
“I really love it,” Jones said. “You couldn’t ask for (anything) better, to go up there, be the underdog, people not expecting you to do anything, and you go out there and play well. It’s really a good feeling, internally. I just can’t wait. I love it. I can’t wait. I’m ready.”
Above: Photo courtesy Richmond Athletics