By Gary Parrish
I wrote a column this week about two of Bruce Pearl's former assistants who are now coaching at a junior college.
(If you haven't read it, it's right here.)
The story focuses on how the lives of Steve Forbes and Jason Shay have changed since they were fired because Pearl was photographed hosting a recruit at his home in violation of NCAA rules, so I didn't really get into the basketball taking place at Northwest Florida State. But it's good basketball. Forbes and Shay have assembled a roster that could compete for a national title and is highlighted by a player who was supposed to be a Tennessee Vol.
"I thought I'd be at Tennessee, but I'm glad I'm here," said Chris Jones, a high-scoring product of Melrose High in Memphis who committed to the Vols in January 2010 but landed in junior college for academic reasons. "I'm glad I'm here because I'm with a group of good guys who are trying to help me get to the next level."
And he'll get there, almost certainly.
Jones is a 5-9 point guard -- strong and explosive and gifted. He was the Most Valuable Player of the Tennessee State Tournament during his final year at Melrose, and it's worth noting that McDonald's All-American Adonis Thomas was also on that team. Put another way, Jones was more important to Melrose's success than the more-heralded Thomas, but Jones never got the same kind of hype in the city because he flourished relatively late and played opposite White Station High's Joe Jackson, a McDonald's All-American who is now a sophomore at Memphis. Josh Pastner chose to recruit Jackson and not Jones for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that most didn't think Jackson and Jones could play together. They had a pretty intense rivalry in high school, one that Jones used to place a massive chip on his own shoulder.
"Every time somebody says 'Joe,' I get 50 [points]," Jones said. "Whenever somebody would tell me Joe is better than me, I'd give them 50."
That's only a slight exaggeration. And if you're wondering whether Pastner's desire to have Jones be a part of the Memphis program has changed, the answer is yes. The third-year coach spent Monday watching Jones workout at Northwest Florida State. He's a clear target for the Class of 2013.
"I've opened Memphis' eyes," Jones said. "Memphis is beating down the door to get me now."
Lots of other schools are too.