Butler sophomore Roosevelt Jones is such an unconventional basketball player that he requires contradictions to describe:
He is a forward playing point guard.
He is a non-shooter who scores.
He is a defensive ace who neither makes steals nor blocks shots.
He means misery if he is guarding you, though. His defense is a key component for a 17th-ranked Butler team that goes for a ninth consecutive victory Saturday against New Orleans at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Even if the 6-4, 227-pound Jones didn't have the physical qualities of an elite defender -- strength, lateral mobility, long arms -- he has the requisite mental attribute.
"The competitive will is the separator. It really is," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "You have to want that to be part of your DNA."
Even in AAU summer ball, where defense is optional, Jones guarded tenaciously for the St. Louis Eagles. His team was usually outsized, he said, and overcame that disadvantage.
"I tried to make a statement that I could guard anybody in the country," Jones said.
In college, he is nearly always assigned to the opponent's top scorer, irrespective of position. He might not be pitted against any 7-foot centers, but anyone else is an eligible target.
Jones' favorite player is Kobe Bryant, but not because of the points the Lakers star scores. For Jones, it's about points disallowed, and Bryant has made the NBA's all-defensive team 12 times.
Jones can identify two players that were most difficult to guard, both from high school: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Brad Beal. They happened to be selected No. 2 and 3, respectively, in last year's NBA draft.
"I try my hardest to make sure my man doesn't score," Jones said.
He hasn't shut out anyone this season, but he has suppressed some scoring averages.
In successive games against IUPUI and Northwestern, he limited John Hart (14.3 ppg) and Drew Crawford (13.5) to seven and six points, respectively. In a 68-49 victory at Vanderbilt a week ago, Jones held Kedren Johnson (16.6) to nine.
Butler's top scorer, Rotnei Clarke, was guarded by Jones in open gyms during the off-season. Whatever Jones lacks in quickness, Clarke said, he compensates for in width and length.
"He's just so strong," Clarke said. "So if you get by him, he can use a little arm bar or something without making it look like he's fouling you, and bump you out. It's extremely hard to go against him.
"He's got to be one of the best defenders in the country."
Clarke said former Butler guard Ronald Nored was better at defending off screens but in a one-on-one situation, Jones is "ridiculous" to score against.
Jones said it is easier for him to guard taller players but that he has learned how to defend quicker guards by using his lower body. Referees usually don't call fouls that don't involve hands. He has fouled out of only one game this season, the 88-86 overtime victory over No. 1 Indiana.
Other Butler forwards of the 2000s who were top defenders were Mike Marshall, LaVall Jordan, Drew Streicher and Willie Veasley. Jones is "well ahead" of Streicher and Veasley at this stage of his career, Stevens said.
It has gotten to the stage that the coach can actually empathize with those guarded by Jones. After one home game, Stevens said:
"If you have to play against Roosevelt Jones all day, that's a hard day."
Not a Rosey outlook
The following are the opponents that Butler's Roosevelt Jones was principally responsible for guarding, compared with those players' season shooting percentage and scoring average. (Jones did not focus on a single player against Xavier
|N. Carolina||Reggie Bullock||5-13||13||49.1%||13.1||-0.1|
|Ball State||Jesse Berry||4-11||12||37.9%||14.3||-2.3|