NWF State’s Jones named national player of the year
5/1/2013 – By BRANDON WALKER
NICEVILLE — Chris Jones has had plenty of firsts during his two years at Northwest Florida State College.
Jones, a 5-foot-11 point guard from Memphis, was the first player in Northwest Florida State College history to win back-to-back Panhandle Conference Player of the Year awards, and he’s also the first to be named to the NJCAA All-America team twice.
But the latest first for Jones may be his biggest achievement yet.
On Tuesday, the National Association of Basketball Coaches announced that Jones has been named the 2012-13 National Junior College Player of the Year. Naturally, Jones is the first Raiders to ever earn national player of the year acclaim.
“This is the ultimate award for Chris,” said Northwest Florida State head coach Steve Forbes, who watched the highscoring point guard lead the Raiders to back-to-back trips to the NJCAA National Championship Game. “This award means a lot to our program and caps off what is probably the best two-year career in Northwest Florida State history.” Jones, who averaged 22.7 points per game as a sophomore, helped lead the Raiders to a 62-6 record during his two seasons in Niceville, both of which culminated in trips to the national title game.
“It feels good,” said Jones, who signed with defending NCAA national champion Louisville in November. “I thought I had a shot at it last year but one player (South Plains guard Marshall Henderson) had a better year than me. This year, I just knew I had to work even harder and have a better year so that our team could be better.
“We got back to the national tournament and I think people really noticed me because we kept winning.”
With Forbes always on the lookout for championship-level players, winning is what landed Jones in Niceville, and it’s also what will stand as the guard’s legacy according to his head coach.
“I think you have to say he’s the winningest player in the history of our program,” said Forbes. “He was a huge part of us being 62-6 and playing for the championship. And people look at his scoring, but he’s a lot more than that. He just makes winning plays.
“I knew he would be a good player for us, but I didn’t know he would turn out to be a special player. That’s what he is, a special player.”
A two-time state champion in high school, Jones has always played for a winner, a trend that will continue when he suits up for head coach Rick Pitino in Louisville next year. After finishing up his final semester in Niceville on Friday, Jones will arrive in Louisville on May 25. For the national player of the year, the chance to join a winning program is just the continuation of a career built on victories.
“I’m very excited,” said Jones. “They just won a national title and they have so many great players coming back. It will be my first year so there will be some adjustments, but there’s so many veteran guys up there that can help make it easier on me.”
When he heads to Louisville, he’ll be taking a boatload of junior college accomplishments with him. He will also be taking a swagger that’s emblematic of his will to win.
“My ability to win is just that I hate losing,” said Jones. “I will do anything to avoid losing.”