Basketball standout sits out another season

Casey Wonnenberg

Casey Wonnenberg

After sitting on the bench for almost two basketball seasons, Matt Jones was welcomed back to Frost Arena with a standing ovation on March 2, 2004.

Although the 6-foot-6 junior center/forward continued to suffer from fatigue and had missed 16 straight games, he still impressed the crowd with his performance. In just 18 minutes of playing time, he led the team with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

“He is the best player I’ve ever coached,”said head coach Scott Nagy.

Jones informed Nagy that he would not be healthy enough to compete this year.

“I didn’t feel good enough over the summer to make me even think I could play this year,” Jones said.

Mononucleosis forced him to redshirt in 2002-03, and in 2004, Jones played 16 games despite his weakness. He had many tests and examinations to finally uncover the cause of his exhaustion. At one point, Jones thought he had Lyme disease.

“Losing him has a big effect on our team,” Nagy said. “We don’t have any kids in the junior class now.”

Jones electrified South Dakota State his freshman year. He led the team in field goal percentage, field goals made, free throws made, points, and rebounds. He averaged 14.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He was ranked fourth nationally in field goal shooting at 65.6 percent. Furthermore, he received North Central Conference Freshman of the Year and was named to the all-North Central Conference men’s basketball team.

“It takes a team more than one year to recover from a loss like Matt Jones,” Nagy said.

In the 16 games he competed in last year, Jones averaged 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds. But the physical exertion played a toll on Jones and he was unable to play in back-to-back games.

“I haven’t played basketball since our final game last year in March. Over the summer I played baseball, but that is about as much working out that I have done. If I try to work out, it always makes me feel worse,” Jones said.

“I think Matt has accepted it, but I know it’s not easy for him,” Nagy said.

The Alpena native admitted that his situation has caused him to shift his priorities to an extent.

“When you take a big part of your life away, you have to make adjustments. With the extra free time, I’m able to do things that I did not have time to do before,” Jones said.

Throughout college, Jones has excelled academically.

In 2004, Jones was selected to the 12-member Academic All-North Central Conference Men’s Basketball Team. Jones plans to graduate in May of 2006 with a pre-professional biology degree. He then intends on attending chiropractic school. Meanwhile, the team will have to find someone to fill the enormous hole that Jones left.

“We lost a lot of go-to guys. We will need someone to stand up and take their place,” Nagy said.