CONYERS - As he enters his last year of high school, Justin Jones will be looking to make his mark as the next two-sport star at Heritage.
At 6 feet, 7 inches and 250 pounds, the rising senior is flying high on the radar of many Division I football recruiters. And though his statistics on the football field last season weren't eye-catching, Jones' potential certainly is.
On the basketball court, his size and strength paid dividends last season as he helped lead his team to a subregion title. Jones averaged 10.2 points per game and 13.6 rebounds per game.
With his senior seasons in both sports ahead of him, Jones cleared the air by making a verbal commitment to play football at the University of Kentucky.
Jones said the Wildcats first showed an interest in him this past winter.
"They came down to the school back in the winter and talked to me a little bit," Jones said. "Coach (Joker) Phillips invited me to Junior Day and I went up there and I watched Kentucky play basketball against Florida. I met some of the players and they were all really close, and I got a real family-type vibe from them. It really made me like it up there."
Jones said his potential to do a number of things for the program really attracted Kentucky to him.
"They said they thought I was a great athlete and could play a lot of different positions on the field - offense or defense," he said. "They thought I was a great mismatch player and a threat in the red zone, that type of thing."
Jones said he plans to really show what he's capable of in the upcoming football season.
"My problem my junior year in football was that I wasn't aggressive enough," he said. "That aggressiveness kind of kicked in during basketball season and I couldn't stay in the game because I kept fouling out.
"I'm looking at the upcoming season the same way I always have. I'm going out there to have fun and help my team. I'm not going to take in any easier than I have before. If anything, I'm going to work harder."
Heritage football coach Chad Frazier also said he's looking for good things out of Jones this season.
"He's really grown up a lot," Frazier said. "His maturity and his physical ability in the weight room and on the football field have really improved. We're really expecting good things from him on offense and defense. He's gotten a lot more aggressive as far as going up and getting the ball, and I think basketball had a lot to do with that. He's also going to play defensive end for us. South Carolina actually offered him a scholarship to play defensive end. We're really expecting him to be as much of a factor on defense as he will be on offense.
"I could tell when he came back from his visit to Kentucky that he really liked Coach (Rich) Brooks. Joker Phillips, the offensive coordinator, has also been good to him. They told him he might play tight end, defense end or offensive tackle. The door is kind of wide open for him. I feel like the sky is the limit for that kid. He's a mature kid, and he's grown a lot over the last year. He's a good one."
Brandon Evans can be reached at email@example.com.