Bald Eagle Area’s Jordan Jones couldn’t get anything to fall in his team’s loss to West Branch on Dec. 22.
It was the worst shooting performance of his career — Jones didn’t hit one shot from the field all night — and he felt as if he let his team down in a winnable game. His older brother, Jason, tried to put the disappointing effort into perspective, reminding Jordan how their favorite NBA player, Kobe Bryant, approached a cold shooting night during his career. Bryant kept firing and responded with a great game.
That’s what Jordan Jones did when the Eagles returned to action — and that’s what he’s still doing.
In the Punxsutawney Holiday Tournament, his next game back, he boasted a 29-point performance against Marion Center and then a 21-point night against Clarion on Dec. 28. After averaging 7.8 points in the team’s first four games, Jordan Jones is averaging 18.3 points in the last four games.
“That’s Kobe-esque,” Jason said.
Jordan was forcing shots at the start of the season before talking with his coaches the night before the tournament at Punxsutawney. He responded by scoring in double figures in three of his last four games, boosting his season scoring average to 13.0 points per game.
Jones, who is also averaging four rebounds and three assists this season, is determined for the Eagles (3-5) to be better than last season’s 2-20 mark. He made that clear when his teammates were joking around during their first practice, getting them to focus and telling them they needed to stay positive. Jones needed to refocus after his forgettable four-point night against West Branch.
His head dropped after missed shots. He was trying to do too much.
“I felt like I had a little bit of pressure on me to do better than 2-20 last year,” Jordan said. “After they talked to me, I just realized I needed to calm down and just let the game come to me.”
His coaches talked to him about creating opportunities for his teammates and looking to make plays on the defensive end. And they told him to keep shooting.
“I was more worried that he was down and out about not making his shots than I was about him shooting,” BEA coach Bill Butterworth said. “He’s the kind of guy that goes off. If it goes in, look out.”
The Eagles guard found his stroke and drilled six 3-pointers during his 29-point effort against Marion Center — a bounce-back “Kobe-esque” performance after scoring a combined 31 points in the team’s first four games this year. The Jones brothers — Jason, Jordan and Jaden — all picked Bryant as their favorite player. Their father was a fan of Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers teams, and Jason adopted the Lakers as his favorite team.
The appreciation for Kobe started with Jason, who owned No. 8 and No. 24 Bryant jerseys growing up. It continued with Jordan and Jaden, who wore Jason’s old No. 8 Bryant jersey to elementary school and watched Lakers games whenever they were on television.
Now, Jordan wears No. 24 for the Eagles.
“My older brother wore 24 because of Kobe,” Jordan said. “So then I was like, I’m going to wear 24 because of my older brother.”
Jason is now watching from the stands as Jordan continues to become an all-around player in his senior season. He’s more active defensively this year after preserving his energy for the offensive end as the team’s top scorer last year. He’s getting his teammates involved and pulling down rebounds.
For Jordan, though, it’s not all about carrying the scoring load for the Eagles.
“All I want to do is win,” Jordan said. “That’s all I care about.”