Duke's Myles Jones in good company
At 6-foot-4, 240-pound Jones is a rising star for Blue Devils
BALTIMORE -- There are a number of ways to describe Myles Jones.
Big. Physical. Athletic. Unstoppable.
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Hold on. Wait a minute. That's a bit over the top.
Brown, one of the National Football League's all-time greats, had very few equals during his playing days with the Cleveland Browns. He punished linebackers and produced enough highlights to fill a shelf-full of documentaries. But before Brown was a household name in football, he was a superstar in lacrosse.
A two-time All-American (1956 and '57), a New York native who played football and lacrosse at Syracuse is quoted as saying, "I'd rather play lacrosse six days a week and football on the seventh."
Another New Yorker and multi-sport star, Jones was offered scholarships to attend Syracuse. A quarterback and a basketball star, he was a four-year letterman in both. He was the quarterback for Walt Whitman High School.
Not until the sixth grade did Jones pick up a lacrosse stick. Although the sport is popular in and around Huntington, New York, the young athlete asked, "who was lacrosse," rather than "what was lacrosse."
It didn't take long for him to pick up the game. In four years of high school play, he was four times named Suffolk County All-League, totaling 149 goals and 123 assists for his career.
"I think it is a fair comparison," Duke head coach Jon Danowski said , whose Blue Devils face Denver in the NCAA semifinals on Saturday afternoon. "Two African-American athletes; multi-sport athletes in high school; both from New York; both big, strong athletes who can also beat you with their intelligence.
"Myles is still becoming, he is not nearly as good as he can be; he is still learning."
Jones did not necessarily know much about Brown growing up.
"When I started playing I heard some mention of him and how I reminded some people of him," Jones said. "I didn't know much about him and his lacrosse. But I learned about what he did at Syracuse and how good he was.
"I think it would be awesome to sit down and talk to him about so many things. I would probably be in awe of him, but it would be special. To be mentioned with him, it is very humbling. To be that physical, to play the way he played football, that is a good model to follow in football and especially lacrosse."
At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Jones has certainly been difficult to stop for opponents. And, as Danowski says, as a sophomore, Jones has not even begun to tap into his potential.
As a freshman during the Blue Devils' run to the national title last season, Jones scored 16 goals and had five assists. Those numbers increased significantly in year number two -- 33 goals and 24 assists.
"As freshman, it was tough because you are still learning the game at this level," Jones said. "It is about learning every day from [assistant] coach [Ron] Caputo and those seniors last year and this year and building on that. Everything has really come together and that is due to my teammates; I couldn't do anything without them."
As part of one of the nation's top midfields with fellow sophomore Deemer Class and senior Christian Walsh, Jones was picked as a second-team All-American this season. Class was a first-team selection along with senior attackman Jordan Wolf.
"I'm excited to see where goes this weekend and the next couple of years," Walsh said. "When he plays hard, he is really tough to stop."
From a wide-eyed freshman to a confident sophomore, Danowski likes the progress so far.
"Even from the beginning of this year, his production has increased," the coach said. "It takes time to learn the game, everything that it takes to be a complete player comes with time.
"What is most impressive about him is his high IQ; he listens to coaching, he's motivated. His basketball skills really translate to lacrosse. He is like a 6-4 point guard who can really see the field well and always playing with his head up."
With success and national exposure comes expectations. This weekend, not just the lacrosse cult but the nation will get an opportunity to see Jones on the field. Big performances on Saturday and possibly Monday might push Jones to yet another level of exposure.
"I thought him coming to Duke, that was a possibility," Danowski said of the attention a top-level player receives at a top-level program. "He is as likeable a young man as I have ever known. Every once in a while, when I sat back while he was developing, I thought about what he could mean to our program because of his personality; he can handle the attention. If he grew the way I thought he might I felt like he could handle anything thrown his way. … and so far he has.
"I know, like the rest of his teammates, he is focused on playing hard this weekend."
Denver veteran head coach Bill Tierney knows stopping the Duke offense will be tough.
"[Duke] has a number of options, Jones being one of them," Tierney said. "You have to be aware of where he is at all times because he can provide a lot of problems if you don't."
Formerly a basketball and football player competing in lacrosse, Jones is now considered a lacrosse player first and foremost. But, might there be a little hoops in his future?
Danowski acknowledges a plan of Jones, if he remains healthy, joining Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils following his lacrosse eligibility.
"It is something we've talked about," Jones said. "That's something way down the road. I'm focused on lacrosse, and this weekend, right now."
And so are some of the nation's top defenders.