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Weber State star Dillon Jones hits team workout circuit after NBA Draft combine

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Jun 7, 2024

Emil Vajgrt, Indiana Pacers

Former Weber State player Dillon Jones handles the ball during a pre-NBA Draft workout with the Indiana Pacers on May 31, 2024, in Indianapolis.

The NBA Draft process is now more than one year old for former Weber State basketball star Dillon Jones.

With the 2024 draft three weeks away, most predictions currently place Jones in the early second round. He has a few more weeks to display his unique skillset and uncommon approach to the game through workouts and interviews with individual teams.

This time around, Jones recently completed visits to the Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings.

It's a deeper process than he experienced last summer.

In May 2023, Jones was a late addition to the G League Elite Camp, where he played so well that he was one of a few invited to remain in Chicago for the NBA Draft combine. He got enough interest that his decision to stay in the draft or return to Weber State became a truly challenging one.

Nam Y. Huh, Associated Press

Weber State's Dillon Jones, left, drives past former Memphis player David Jones after a steal during the NBA draft combine May 15, 2024, in Chicago.

Jones ultimately withdrew in the final hours before the 2023 deadline and, in his final season at Weber State, became the first men's Division I player in at least 31 years to total 600 points, 300 rebounds, 160 assists and 60 steals in one season.

He finished high in all major WSU career categories (fifth in points, third in rebounds, second in assists, first in steals and second in free throws) and forwent his final season of college eligibility to turn pro in the 2024 draft.

In two games at this year's combine in mid-May, Jones totaled 13 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and three turnovers on an average of 21.5 minutes per game. He shot 3 of 12 overall, 0 of 4 from the 3-point line and 7 of 9 from the charity stripe.

Jones earned high marks from multiple writers for his defensive pressure and playmaking. Though his shooting performance was subpar, Jones shot well enough in his post-combine workout that one consultant in attendance posted a video on X while saying Jones "had one of the most impressive 3pt shooting performances of the day at @RocNationSports Pro Day at the NBA Combine."

It helps that Jones tested well in every measure possible during the drill portion of the combine. Adding to his plus-7 wing span (7 inches more wingspan than height), Jones had year-over-year increases of his max vertical leap (4 1/2 inches) and his standing vertical (3 1/2 inches), and shaved two- to three-tenths of a second off each of his 3/4-court sprint, shuttle run and lane agility tests.

It also helps that scores of NBA scouts were in attendance for Jones' most impressive nights in the 2023-24 season after he opened the campaign with a 29-point, 10-rebound performance in an upset win at Saint Mary's.

The first such scout-heavy night came at home against Montana. With the self-admitting Griz trying to rough Jones up and the game slogging through a single-digit tie through the first 10 minutes, the Weber State star ignited an eventual 93-63 rout by slamming a thunderous chase-down block off the backboard, then swishing a 3-pointer seconds later at the other end.

Despite a poor shooting night, Jones totaled 15 points, five rebounds and five assists -- and one draft analyst said "that's all I needed to see" about the block-and-3 sequence.

The second well-scouted game was at home against South Dakota State. Jones caught fire from 3 in the first half (finishing 4 of 5) and had SDSU chasing the ball in a 23-point, six-rebound, nine-assist performance -- despite Jones being in the locker room for a chunk of time in the second half.

Jones eventually swished a short fadeaway at the buzzer to defeat the eventual Summit League champions, led by players who have since transferred to Kansas (Zeke Mayo) and UCLA (William Kyle III).

The third time came a few nights later in Oklahoma when Jones shot 10 of 13 on two-pointers, totaled 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and the Wildcats ended the nation's longest home winning streak at Oral Roberts.

In the final such game, which had 13 NBA scouts in attendance, Jones electrified the Dee Events Center with 30 points, 23 rebounds and nine assists, twice leading WSU out of late-game and overtime deficits for a home victory.

The only other players in the past five years to total 30-plus points, 20-plus rebounds and eight-plus assists in a game are LeBron James, Nikola Jokić, Luka Dončić and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

What Jones did when the lights turned on should be hard to forget for the teams who invested money to scout him in person.

Another thing likely to help Jones is his interview skills. In public media availability at recent stops, Jones displayed thoughtfulness.

In Portland, Jones imparted things he's learned from his brother, European pro Eric Washington.

"(My brother) sees a lot of people that would scrap and claw to be in these environments. I'm (fortunate) enough to be in a position to be in these facilities, be in these gyms, meeting these people. So treat it like an opportunity," Jones said. "When you were younger and you thought you would be here, you would think it's the best thing in the world. So now that it's here, don't think that it's tiring because you're going from flight to flight and things like that. Just ... treat it like the greatest opportunity in the world."

When asked about potentially sitting behind others before getting his on-court NBA opportunity, Jones sounded a lot like former Portland star and fellow WSU alum Damian Lillard.

"Just stay gracious and stay ready," Jones said. "Be a selfless player, if I'm being honest, because there could be times when you don't play for 20 games. Those are the moments that are going to show who you really are as a player and a pro. When you get that opportunity, you've got to be ready to play."

And echoing Lillard even more strongly when asked about his prolific college career and possible expectations for him as a pro:

"You've just got to have real internal confidence in who you think you are. You can't have your confidence based on what other people say about you, it's got to be from within -- the work you put in, things like that," Jones said. "When you get in these environments like the workouts, the combine or whatever, you've just got to put on display what you've already done."

In Indiana, Jones explained how four years at Weber State prepared him to be a pro.

"I think you get used to figuring out how to raise your teammates' level, trying to push people along and bring people with you. Even when I didn't do that at my best, I had people around me who was fighting me, trying to get me to do that, show me how to do it even when I didn't know how to at times," Jones said. "That's what you get going to school at Weber State. You get that in-home, real love in a sense where if you're not at your best, they try to get you there.

"Where I'm trying to go, they knew my goals and things like that. They were able to preach that to me, talk to me and make sure every day I'm trying to get to that point. If I wasn't doing it, slacking, they would get on me. I think if you're at a bigger school, that relationship and communication and dialogue isn't as direct as that. That was big."

Reports have Jones with additional past or future workout dates lined up with the San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors.

The NBA Draft, now a two-day event, begins Wednesday, June 26, with the first round on ABC and ESPN. The second round is Thursday, June 27, on ESPN.

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