The photo is almost seven years old now and was taken shortly before the start of Josh Jones’ senior basketball season at Erskine Academy.

The photo graced the cover of the Morning Sentinel/Kennebec Journal Winter Sports 2004-05 preview. Jones, wearing his blue Erskine uniform, No. 23, is throwing down a vicious dunk, the kind that makes everyone near the backboard cover his head or scamper away.

There’s a lot of the future in that dunk.

On Thursday, the 6-foot-4 Jones was selected in the sixth round of the NBA Developmental League draft by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. On Friday, he was traded to the Maine Red Claws. Jones earned his draft status after attending a two-day D-League tryout in August.

“It doesn’t surprise me because he’s the best athlete I’ve ever coached in 18 years,” said Tim Bonsant, Jones’ coach at Erskine.

Jones was a four-year starter for Bonsant, but it was the summer before Jones’ junior season when Bonsant, now the boys basketball coach at Cony, knew his star had a chance to be special. Jones was at basketball camp at Providence College with other Maine players. He and Brunswick’s Ralph Mims, who went on to play college basketball at Florida State, were asked to scrimmage with the Friars.

“All the high school players there, and he and Ralph were asked to go play with them at night,” Bonsant said. “They had Ryan Gomes, and Josh and Ralph are out there playing with them.”

Gomes played the first two seasons of his NBA career with the Boston Celtics before going to Minnesota in the trade that fetched Boston Kevin Garnett. Gomes spent last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, where he started 62 games.

As a senior, Jones averaged 16.5 points, 11 rebounds and 4.5 steals for Bonsant’s Eagles. Then, he took the long way to this opportunity with the Red Claws.

“He wasn’t just a scorer or a rebounder,” Bonsant said. “He would take charges. He would get the ball up to the open man… The team went before stats, and that showed in college, too. With Josh, it’s all about the ultimate goal, winning.”

First, there was a year of prep school at Maine Central Institute. Then-MCI coach Ed Jones wasn’t sure Josh could play at that level, but soon enough, Jones, the only Mainer on the Huskies’ roster that season, cracked the starting lineup, averaging close to a double-double and holding his own against future Division I players.

From Pittsfield, Jones went to Olney Central College in Illinois, then the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa, Texas, before finally settling at Husson University. Jones averaged 19.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game for the Eagles last season, leading them to the NCAA Division III tournament.

In his final game at Husson, an 86-83 overtime loss to Williams in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Jones scored 32 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and had three steals. His play was a big reason the Eagles nearly upset one of the top teams in the nation, a team that went on to the final four.

Jones hasn’t made the Red Claws yet. He’s one of 15 players the team will have in camp, and he’ll need to work hard to be one of the 10 players who makes the team and is in uniform when Maine opens the season Nov. 25 at Springfield.

He’ll work hard for the roster spot. Bonsant is sure of it. If Jones makes the Red Claws, Bonsant will be in the stands at the Portland Expo, cheering on his former player.

“I’m one of his biggest supporters,” Bonsant said. “He’s made the most of his opportunities, and I think he’s a great role model.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]


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