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Torn between good choices, opportunity for momentum leads Dillon Jones back to Weber State

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Jun 1, 2023

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Weber State forward Dillon Jones, left, rises against BYU's Fousseyni Traore during a basketball game Dec. 22, 2022, in Provo.

Going to the buzzer to decide his basketball future for next season wasn’t an attempt at dramatic flair or a setup for a splashy social media graphic.

With the NCAA’s deadline for men’s basketball underclassmen to withdraw from the NBA Draft and still maintain college eligibility in its final hour Wednesday night, Dillon Jones truly didn’t have his decision made as he traveled from Memphis, where he worked out for the Grizzlies, to his home in South Carolina.

“I was torn, if I’m being honest. I didn’t know what to do really until the last hour,” the Weber State star told the Standard-Examiner. “If I would’ve stayed, someone would have probably bet on me. I feel like whatever decision I made, I wouldn’t lose. It was just about making a decision and going with it, going all-in.

“I feel like if I stayed in the draft, I would’ve worked myself into a good position. So I was happy that whatever decision I made, it was going to be a good decision … but something had to be done and that’s what tore me the most because both were good avenues. But I just had to pray on it and lean on the people I trust most.”

In the final moments, Jones concluded that the opportunity to build on the momentum he’d created in the month of May was going to happen best if he returned to Weber State for his fourth season of college basketball.

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Weber State head coach Eric Duft, right, high-fives Dillon Jones in a game against BYU on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, in Provo.

The double-double machine, currently the program’s fifth all-time player in rebounds and steals, returns to a veteran-laden lineup for a Weber State team that will now see itself hosting professional scouts more nights than not come November.

“The opportunity to just improve on the foundation I’ve set for myself now … in my head, I thought people would know who I am being that I’ve improved every year in college and I’d be on more people’s radar, and that just wasn’t the case,” Jones said. “Not a lot of people were that familiar with me. So the opportunity for this to be my first year on some type of radar and knowing I can do what I do at Weber, improve every year and work on the things I’ve been told I need to address to give myself a better chance, that’s too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

In May, Jones went from an underclassman trying to get feedback about his game to someone who had a real decision to make with a real path to an immediate professional career had he remained in the draft.

He entered the process with a handful of objectives: “get as much feedback as I could, gain momentum, move up boards and finish top 60-75,” Jones said.

After training for a few weeks at his agent’s home base in New Jersey, the 6-foot-6 wing/forward hybrid worked out with the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics in early May. After some invitees pulled out of the NBA G League Camp in Chicago, Jones got a call to fill in as a replacement.

ISAAC FISHER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Weber State's Dillon Jones smiles after a play against BYU on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, in Provo.

Two days of on-court scrimmaging against players evaluated to be G League or two-way-contract types of talents showed Jones was no longer a fill-in. He totaled 24 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, six steals and three turnovers while shooting 43% from the field, turning in an overall plus-minus of plus-17 in 36 minutes on the court.

Among the 44 players there, Jones was one of eight invited to remain in Chicago and compete in the NBA Combine.

His all-around impact and unique skillset drew plenty of interest in his nearly 10 days in Chicago. Longtime NBA writer and former Memphis front-office executive John Hollinger tweeted that he thought Jones was a top-5o player.

“It literally went down to the wire. The decision was hard; it wasn’t as easy as people might think. I got some good feedback. Initially, it was just like I was going to test it out, get some people to see who I am and then come back. It turned into, I’m an actual prospect. That’s a whole different world.

“And that happened so fast. It changed that Chicago week.”

After the stay in Chicago, Jones completed NBA prospect workouts with the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis before deciding to return to school.

Sources say Jones is forgoing something real, whatever it may have turned into. Where his evaluations stood, the chances are he would have created something for himself but ultimately, he felt returning to Weber State would best build on the opportunity he seized this month.

“Now I just have momentum,” Jones said. “When people start to see that you belong, now they have to follow you. With that opportunity, I think my work ethic and how much I love the game, that will take over and I’ll handle the rest and be in a better position.”

Jones has a few days to catch his breath and “be with my people” at his home before returning to Ogden. Then, he says, it’s time to make a plan, to map out how he turns evaluations from NBA scouts into on-court improvement.

Weber State coaches were consistent throughout the process. They weren’t going to recruit Jones to come back to Ogden if it wasn’t the best thing for his career. This wasn’t the first dance for head coach Eric Duft in that regard.

Now they’ll gladly welcome Jones back to a group that returns last season’s starting five from a third-place and Big Sky semifinalist team, one that will include seven upperclassmen and more returning experience by two-fold than any other Big Sky team.

Once his feet hit Utah soil, he says the NBA is done for 10 months.

“At the end of the day, it’s not just about me. We’ve got a whole team. Me coming back, I have to buy into the team still, it’s not just about what I’m going to do,” Jones said. “So getting locked in with the team, making sure everybody knows that I’m here and I don’t want to think about the NBA, I just want to be here and win as many games as we can and see what we can get done.”


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