Central Mountain’s Collin Jones commits to Lebanon Valley College for basketball

(SHAREIK FLOWERS/THE EXPRESS) Collin Jones (middle) signs his letter-of-intent to play basketball for Lebanon Valley College next year. Sitting left to right of him is his mother, Leigh Jones, and younger sister, Kiahna Jones. Standing left-to-right is Central Mountain basketball coach Tyler Bardo, and Collin’s father, Albert Jones.

By SHAREIK FLOWERS

sflowers@lockhaven.com

MILL HALL- When Collin Jones was 15 his parents, Albert and Leigh, sat him down and asked him what his future plans after high school entailed. Without hesitation, he explained that he envisioned himself playing college basketball and that he would invest rigorous hours into achieving his goal. Jones honored the promise to his parents– and on Monday soaked in the fulfillment of adding another milestone to his already-crowded list of basketball achievements.

Jones signed his letter-of-intent Monday to continue his basketball career at Lebanon Valley College (LVC) next season.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Jones said on becoming a collegiate athlete. “My sophomore year is when I thought about playing after high school. This entire journey, since I started to play basketball at a young age, has been very exciting.”

Jones detailed his decision-process as difficult. He was heavily recruited, and received multiple offers from a variety of schools, which created indecisiveness in his selection. He juggled between committing to a college before settling on LVC. Once he toured the campus, and met with head coach Brad McAlester, he knew LVC was the perfect fit.

“Once LVC came in they sort of created that home-environment to where I felt like I could be myself,” he explained. “The campus was a nice environment, and everything about LVC was basically everything that I liked and wanted.”

Jones’ upcoming NCAA career succeeds an impressive high school resume. At Central Mountain he was twice selected as a Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference (PHAC) first team all star– and was a two-time conference MVP in his junior and senior season. He ended 2019 with a Wildcat-high 18.4 points per game and is fourth on CM’s all-time scoring list with 945 points. He’s also second in career rebounds (468), holds the school record with 21 rebounds in a game, and is second on the school’s all-time steals list (152).

But his contributions aren’t regulated to statistics. He matured into the team-leader throughout his career and elevated the performances of his teammates.

“He’s definitely going to be hard to replace,” Central Mountain basketball coach Tyler Bardo said. “You have to talk about his energy, his focus and commitment to the program. Whether he was traveling all summer for AAU, he always made time for us. He set a good tone for what we want our program to be in the future.”

Jones was introduced to basketball by his father, Albert, at the age of 7. His father was his first basketball coach in elementary school, and continued to coach him once he advanced to travel teams.

“I’d say he was probably the biggest influencer when it came to playing basketball,” Jones said of his father.

Jones’ meteoric rise through the CM basketball ranks commenced with a setback in his freshman year. He fractured his forearm during the second tournament of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball year–which sidelined him for the duration of the season. In his sophomore campaign, he acted as CM’s sixth man off the bench and helped the Wildcats capture their first ever district championship with a 65-63 win over Hollidaysburg in 2017.

During CM’s title season Jones showed flashes of brilliance, but managed just 4.5 points per game. That number ballooned to over 18 points per game in his final two seasons.

“I think it was just his understanding of what the game is, and the willingness to want to be better, was what helped him to make that jump from sixth-man to two-time MVP,” Bardo said. “Nobody worked harder than he did, and he did a lot of things with the communication-piece and the energy-piece.”

Jones expects to be a forward or play the wing position for the Dutchmen next season. He described his basketball role as a scorer, who also unselfishly distributes the ball and creates scoring opportunities for his teammates.

“I bring energy and get up-and-down the court,” Jones said. “I get the defensive rebound and push the ball out. I look for open teammates and score. I just like to bring that energy to the team and make sure everybody’s involved.”

Despite his evident talent, and production already exemplified, head coach Tyler Bardo believes Jones is just scratching the surface of his basketball potential.

“LVC is going to be gaining a different player than what he is now, because he’s already in the gym working,” Bardo said. “He’s continuing to cultivate and develop his game. So LVC’s definitely going to get that guy who’s going to do whatever’s asked of him, and give 100 percent his entire time.”

Collin’s ascension is another story line in the Jones family’s impressive-sports background. Albert, his father, played football at Lock Haven University. Leigh, his mother, ran track and was a state-qualifier in the hurdling event at Lock Haven High School. Kiahna, his younger sister, was one of the leading scorers on the Central Mountain Middle School girls basketball team this past season.

Off the hardwood, Jones is just as talented on the gridiron. In his senior year, his first experience of high school football, playing as a wide receiver he recorded a CM single-season record with 956 yards– while also leading the Wildcats with 51 receptions and 10 touchdowns.

“Sports have been a huge factor in our family,” Jones said. “It’s something that we all eat, sleep and breathe.”

Now as he begins the next chapter of his athletic career– Jones will simultaneously major in Digital Communications as he advances his academic-studies.

“I wanna do online journalism, video editing and other media work like that,” he said with a smile.

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