Colby Jones: Maestro of Versatility
Xavier junior Colby Jones has the tools to be a jack of all trades weapon at the next level. Is it time we start paying closer attention?
“I think I’m unique to the game ‘cause of my versatility.”
- Ice Cube
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a minute. The NBA draft is my favorite thing in the world. It’s not just the day of the draft that I cherish. It’s the entire process. The excitement each of us gets when basketball is back in our lives on a regular basis. The satisfaction of waking up each morning and seeing a slate of tasty matchups on the hoop agenda.
Draft fans love to get excited about an incoming slate of prospects—most notably, the incoming collegiate freshman. We all fantasize about the upside that a young player can have. But during this same period of excitement, we tend to forget to shine the light back on another group of individuals.
While some might be overjoyed with the idea of incoming freshmen, I tend to go to war for the other side of the fence. There’s nothing as rewarding as watching a returning player take their game to another level. Watching someone’s confidence blossom on a basketball court is poetry at work. We get to witness the hard work over the offseason rise to the surface in front of our own eyes.
Heading into the preseason for collegiate hoops, I found myself running through my database of prospects. That’s when Xavier Musketeers junior wing Colby Jones came up. To say I was intrigued would be putting it lightly.
Let’s break it down for everyone out there. Colby Jones is a 6’6”, 205-pound guard. He will be turning 21 years old in May of this year. Diving into Jones’s tape at the beginning of the season, I found myself fascinated with his offensive versatility.
There’s something about a player that plays with poise and works to get to his locations. That’s just what I took away from watching Colby Jones. If you chase box scores, you might be intrigued by the type of production that Colby can put up on a nightly basis. He can fill up the stat sheet in a range of areas; there’s no denying that. But there are also players that you have to watch the tape in order to appreciate their impact.
Colby Jones is one of those players.
Whenever I’m evaluating a returning prospect, there are a number of areas to pay close attention to. Most of the time, players are returning to college in order to further develop their game. A wide range of collegiate players will test the draft waters each year. Most of those players will be eager to get feedback from NBA scouts on what they need to improve on for the next level. It’s a valuable asset for players who are looking to take their game to new heights.
While it’s easy to point out specific areas or skills that a prospect needs to improve on, I love to see the growth in production. Most of the time, when a player is returning, they are also returning to acquire a heavier workload on the court. Minutes will increase. Roles on both sides of the floor will require a heavier workload. Even the number of offensive touches could take a quick uptake.
Colby Jones has continued to improve each year on the basketball court. That’s something that should not be overlooked, regardless of age.
15 Games | 11 Starts | 27.8 MIN
7.7 PTS | 4.8 REB | 2.9 AST | 1.3 STL
46.4 FG% | 33.3 3p% | 75.5 FT%
35 Games | 35 Starts | 33.5 MIN
11.6 PTS | 7.3 REB | 3.2 AST | 1.5 STL
48.3 FG% | 29.2 3p% | 68.0 FT%
6 Games | 6 Starts | 33.8 MIN
15.7 PTS | 5.7 REB | 5.8 AST | 1.7 STL
49.2 FG% | 64.3 3p% | 86.2 FT%
Now I shouldn’t need to say this, but I will anyways. Do I believe that Colby Jones is going to keep up a 49/64/86 production? No, or else he’d probably be a Top 10 pick.
But there’s a lot to process when it comes to his production and tape over the years. Each year, Jones has seen a steady uptick in his field goal attempts, as expected.
One of the biggest areas in question when it comes to Colby Jones is his outside shot. As a sophomore, Jones attempted just 2.1 three-point shots a game. This year, that number is up to 2.3 through his first six games. The common critique I’ve heard about Jones is that he can’t shoot from outside. Are we sure that’s true?
Call me crazy, but when I turn on the film for the 6’6” guard, I don’t see a player that can’t shoot. I see a talent that understands how to work for shots. Jones has what I call the “Shaun Livingston Mindset.” It’s the understanding of knowing what your strengths are and not forcing the issue.
During his days with the Golden State Warriors, Shaun Livingston understood that he was at his best when working in from the perimeter to get his shots. He also understood that attacking the paint could not only lead to a higher percentage shot, but it could also lead to a potential opening in the defense for another teammate to get an open look.
Jones gives me the same vibes. His play on the perimeter doesn’t give me the opinion that he will never be able to stretch the defense. In fact, I believe it’s just the opposite—especially when it comes to some of the decisions and vision he’s shown with the ball in his hands.
The outside shot will continue to be the calling card that NBA scouts are monitoring closely when it comes to the 20-year-old junior. Jones has the versatility to be a gadget type of weapon at the NBA level, but unlocking a consistent shot from the perimeter will be the factor that swings his stock up boards if it stays hot.
After his first three games of the 2022-23 season, Jones was a combined 0-4 from three-point range. What’s even more shocking is that during that stretch, Jones was averaging 13.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 40.0% from the field. Jones suffered a sprained ankle before the team’s game against Indiana and has been battling through it.
Since the game against the Hoosiers, Jones has started to light up from outside. In his last three games, Colby Jones has played against Florida, Duke, and Gonzaga. During those three games, Jones has averaged 18.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists while shooting 55.6% from the field and 90.0% from three-point range.
Yes. NINETY PERCENT. After three games this season, Colby had attempted just four three-pointers. In his last three games, he’s attempted 10. Confidence building? Perhaps.
One of my personal favorite parts of Colby Jones’s game is his passing ability. Jones doesn’t just have sensational vision to make beautiful assists. He also understands that an extra pass can create an assist for another teammate.
It’s why “hockey assists” should be treated as gold when it comes to evaluation. There’s a misconception about playmaking that get’s thrown around. Just because a prospect can throw “fancy” passes, that doesn’t mean they are automatically an elite playmaker.
Sure, showtime-like dimes will get everyone excited and make it on SportsCenter’s Top 10. But teams are also looking for players that are willing to make the correct reads. It can be as simple as understanding that driving at a specific angle can allow the defense to collapse and open up a bounce pass in the paint to a big man for a high-percentage shot.
That’s what Colby Jones does. He understands the importance of timing. When you don’t have the elite quickness or hesitations in your game, you better be able to use your fakes and lean on your fundamentals. A properly timed ball fake to set up a defender can do wonders. That’s just what Jones understands.
The defensive side of the ball is something I want to continue to monitor throughout the year when it comes to Jones. There are some flashes of upside, and there are also some overplaying tendencies. However, I’ve also seen some glimpses of court awareness on the defensive side of the ball.
This clip above got my attention. Jones is going to be away from the ball. Xavier is going up against Indiana and their talented forward Trayce Jackson-Davis. They are going to send a double toward TJD, which means Colby Jones is suddenly trusted with guarding two positions. Watching the eyes of Jones in this clip impressed me, especially when it came to the processing speed. Jones reads the cut before it happens and steps in front for a beautiful steal.
This is where I start to get in my feelings. Jones demonstrates some serious patience when it comes to driving off the bounce and creating a window. He’s under control and knows how to make the defense play at his speed. Footwork makes the dream work, and that’s what I love about his work to get to his areas on the court.
His ability in the mid-range is why I’m not afraid of the outside shot coming around with time. Jones is a technician, crunching the numbers and waiting for that perfect opportunity to make a good shot a better shot.
I’m a sucker for off-the-ball movement. So that’s why we are going to make sure to highlight some of those flashes from Colby Jones. When you’re a player that has strong vision and playmaking ability, it’s always fascinating to see which of those players can read the floor without the ball in their hands. If Colby’s outside shot can continue to trend upward, his off-the-ball play could make him even more dangerous.
The incoming NBA draft class is going to feature a long list of exciting prospects near the top of the class. Teams picking early in the draft will be chasing potential and long-term upside.
But as the picks fly off the board, that also means that playoff contenders will be hunting for Swiss Army knives to add to their rotation. The flashes have been strong for Xavier junior Colby Jones to start out the 2022-23 season. A player like Jones might not seem like a potential home run selection, but his basketball IQ and feel for the game will suggest otherwise. He might just give an NBA franchise a weapon that can do whatever is asked of him.