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2019 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year, Dennis Jones just wrapped up is first professional season in Saudi Arabia

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Dennis Jones after winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship. Photo courtesy of Dennis Jones.

By Tom Ballato

Dennis Jones spent his first two collegiate seasons at Pratt Community College in Kansas. At Pratt C.C, he had an outstanding career with 701 points, 322 assists, and 88 steals.

After his time at Pratt C.C., Jones sat out a season in 2016-2017 due to not qualifying academically. He transferred to Prairie View A&M (PVAM) because he wanted to play on the Division 1 level.

The defensive-minded point guard who likes to get everyone involved had a great first season at Prairie View A&M. He averaged 12.5 points and 5.2 assists per game. Jones started in 22 of the team’s 33 games.

In his senior season, Jones saw limited action at the beginning of the season but was eventually inserted into the starting lineup. He averaged 8.6 points, 4.5 assists, and 2 steals per game. Jones was named 2019 Southwestern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. He was a critical part of an aggressive defense that led the conference in steals and turnovers per game. When asked about his defensive success, Jones said, “It is something I take pride in. As far as things I work on, it varies, but I think my anticipation is good with taking charges and getting steals. Defense is something I take pride in doing.”

When asked about his favorite memory from his time at PVAM, Jones replied, “Most definitely winning the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) Tournament.” Winning the SWAC Tournament gave Prairie View A&M an automatic bid to the 2019 NCAA Tournament. It was the second time in the program’s history-making it to the tournament and the first time since 1998. PVAM finished the season 22-13 overall and 17-1 in conference play.

They lost in the play-in game to Fairleigh Dickinson, but Jones described the journey to get to the NCAA Tournament by saying, “It was a long journey. At the beginning of the season, I had issues going on with the coaches. In the beginning, I wasn’t playing, so I watching and supporting my team. We went on an 11 game losing streak. We went home for Christmas break, and I am thankful that everything worked out. I got put back in the starting lineup, and we won 21 of 23 games. The team was clicking. It was a great experience once we started winning, and everyone loves winning. When you are winning, everything is good.”

It took some time for Jones to receive any offers from teams overseas due to the issues that he had at Prairie View A&M. The opportunity finally presented itself, and Jones signed to play in Saudi Arabia, where the team brought him in to play point guard and run the club.

Jones playing in Saudi Arabia.

Although his club had a down season, the club improved from the previous season. Jones replied, “It was a good experience for me getting experience and playing against former NBA players. It was an overall great rookie season.”

Some former NBA players in the league included Cleanthony Early and Glen Rice Jr. Some other notable players were C.J Leslie and Wayne Chism.

Jones averaged 28 points, 7.2 assists, 7 rebounds, and 5.4 steals per game in Saudi Arabia. He led the league in steals and continued to build off his defense in college. Jones was also determined to help his team any way he could running for rebounds and loose balls.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Jones.

“I was new to the league, and many players didn’t know me, so I was able to do things the things I did defensively.” Saudi Arabia only allows two imports on the team, and Jones embraced the leadership role he was given.

The season came to an end with Jones’ team eliminated from playoff contention. When speaking about the league, Jones claimed, “The local talent is strong. They have seven-footers and all type of talented players. Saudi Arabia’s National Team always plays well in tournaments.”

Jones recently signed to play for first place Al Naft Baghdad in Iraq. The seasons delayed, but once the league resumes, Jones will join the team for the playoffs.

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