Unlike most prep stars, local three-star guard Verdell Jones III chose to wait until after the smoke had cleared to select a school. And it wasn’t the school most people were expecting him to choose.
The Champaign Central product will be suiting up for a seriously depleted but newly helmed Indiana squad under the direction of Tom Crean.
Despite the fact that the team faces sanctions and only returns three scholarship players, Jones said it was “the best situation for me. They expect me to come in and make a big contribution.” He also noted that part of his decision was looking at how well Crean developed his guards at Marquette, a school long known for its outside-the-arc performers.
Minnesota was considered a front-runner for Jones. He visited the school once on April 23 and then again the following week. This is the second recruit in recent weeks who has decided to go elsewhere in the Midwest rather than Minnesota. Los Angeles-area center Krys Faber chose Depaul over Tubby Smith’s Gophers last month.
What this means, among other things, is that a strong rivalry between Big 12 conference foes will have a chance to grow inside of the Big Ten in the next four years. Jones faced off with Purdue-bound Decatur Eisenhower product Lewis Jackson three times this year. Central defeated Eisenhower only one time, their only loss of the season, but it was in the game that mattered the most: in the state tournament at the Mt. Zion regional 65–63.
Champaign Central went on to finish third place in the class 3A state tournament, their best showing since 1969.
The Purdue-Indiana rivalry is considered one of the most intense in the nation.