By Michael Grace-Dacosta
With a swish from behind the Ottawa Gee-Gees’ three-point line, Jahmal Jones became the second-leading scorer in school history.
At the Rams’ Jan. 18 game, fourth-year point guard Jones took the title from Jan-Michael Nation, who played from 1998–2002.
“I never thought it would actually happen to me to be honest,” Jones said.
He now trails Boris Bakovic, who is one of the most prolific scorers in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) history and scored 2,068 points in his four years at Ryerson for the top spot by 731 points as of Jan. 29.
Even in high school, Jones was considered a coveted recruit for Ryerson. He was named a second team All-Ontario selection and the most valuable player of the Peel Region all-star game in the 2009–10 season.
Since joining the Rams, Jones has been named an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) all-star every year. In 2011, he was selected as Ryerson’s Male Athlete of the Year, won a silver medal at the Summer Universiade in Shenzhen, China and played for the Canadian men’s basketball team at the Pan American Games.
“He’s the guy who’s had the biggest impact on the program,” Rams head coach Roy Rana said. “He’s the heart and soul of the team… we go where he takes us.”
In the 2010–11 season, Jones led all CIS rookies (averaging 17.2 points per game) and propelled the Rams to their first playoff victory since 2003. The next season, Jones was a key component to the Rams making their first CIS Final 8 appearance since the 1998–99 season. He led the Rams to their first-ever national championship win.
“Jones is honestly the fastest player I’ve ever seen,” said fifth-year point guard Yannick Walcott, who’s played with both Jones and Bakovic.
But Jones’s time at Ryerson hasn’t always been on the upswing. Last season, Jones averaged career lows in three-point percentage (26 per cent) and in field goal percentage (38 per cent). The team lost three of its last four regular-season games and was eliminated in the OUA quarter finals — just one year removed from making nationals.
This season Jones is averaging a career-high 19 points per game — shooting 46 per cent as three pointers and ranking tenth in the CIS.
“Shooting was a big thing for me to work on,” Jones said. “When I first came in I couldn’t shoot the ball… now I’m finally finding rhythm.”
In addition to his improved play, Jones is making strides as a leader.
“Sometimes I’ll look over during practice or even in the change room and he’s talking to some of the rookies [about] things to work on and what he sees when he’s playing,” Walcott said.
The Rams rank fourth in the nation and have one of the best defences in the CIS — they’re third in opponents’ field percentage, seventh in points allowed per game and tenth in opponents’ three-point percentage.
“We’re just hoping [that] as we get healthy down the stretch we’ll begin to tighten up and really start to play defence the way we’re capable [of],” Rana said.
Jones needs to average 17.5 points per game — 1.5 less than his current average — for the remainder of this season and into next season (his final year at Ryerson) to become the Rams’ all-time leading scorer.
“I never really thought about it. I guess I’ll think about it when I’m done,” Jones said. “Right now I’m just trying to enjoy [playing] and give back to the young guys.”