The center of the basketball universe for this weekend is Houston. And in the former home of NASA and current site of the Final Four, one local talent has a chance to launch his hardwood future.
"Everyone's paying attention to basketball this weekend. Playing in the Final Four has always been my dream. I never got to do that, but this is the next best thing," said Cameron Jones, a senior guard for Northern Arizona University.
Jones won't lace up his sneakers for Monday's national championship game, but in Texas he certainly had his One Shining Moment. That's because the Los Alamitos High alum played in Friday's Reese's College All-Star Game.
The showcase kicked off a weekend-plus of wall-to-ball basketball in Houston. Jones was optimistic about his 14-point, three-steal contribution to the West's 113-108 victory.
"It's a great opportunity, getting my first real national exposure," Jones said. "I would get home from practice and watch a lot of [the fellow All-Stars] on TV. Tonight, I proved I can play against them."
The game included Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas and some mid-major university talents, including College of Charleston guard Andrew Goudelock, who was the game's MVP, and Morehead State center Kenneth Faried.
All those selected have NBA potential and will began a nearly two-month grind to prove it. Many will attend pre-draft basketball camps, similar to the NFL Combine, as well as undergo personal evaluations by individual franchises.
Jones said he will go "wherever I'm invited."
Such is the guard's attitude toward a professional career: He is ready to fill any role any NBA team may need him to fill.
"I'm a hard worker," Jones said. "Whatever a team needs me to do, I can do it."
Should Jones' name be called during the June 30 NBA Draft, he'll join his cousin, Landry Fields of the New York Knicks, in representing their alma mater, Los Alamitos High, at the professional level.
Fields is headed to a likely All-Rookie nomination in his debut season since coming out of Stanford. The 6-foot-7 forward is averaging 9.9 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Jones nearly entered the draft a year ago. He declared after the Lumberjacks' 2009-10 season but never hired an agent. After testing the waters, he decided to play his final season for the Lumberjacks in Flagstaff.
The extra year allowed Jones to set the program's career scoring record of 1,550 points, a mark he broke in a late February Big Sky Conference game against Northern Colorado.
"All year, I was seeing I was 'so many points away,'" Jones said. "I knew, eventually, it had to get broken. And when it did, it was a huge relief. Setting the scoring record wasn't something I even considered as a freshman. I came in as a point guard."
His transition to shooting guard certainly paid off, though. He averaged 20.1 points in a role he described as "more creating [of scoring opportunities] for myself."
His efforts earned him first-team All-Big Sky honors in addition to a spot in the Reese's College All-Stars game, as selected by the National Assn. of Basketball Coaches.
The 6-foot-4 guard credited his standout senior campaign to a more polished mid-range jumper, a facet of his game he believes could help him garner more attention come draft day.
"The mid-range jump shot is my best attribute and something that's lost in the pro game," he said.
NBA scouts should soon discover what Jones' opponents already know: That smooth jumper is only part of what has garnered Jones praise from coaches around the nation, including Arizona's Sean Miller.
Miller was part of the truTV studio broadcast team for Friday's game and he had high praise for Jones, saying he could score from inside the three-point line "as well as any player in the game."
Jones' big weekend ends today, when he returns to Flagstaff. While he plans to hire an agent to represent him in his NBA pursuit, he'll continue attending his NAU classes.
Chapman Makes Push in Division III Baseball
Chapman University's baseball team is making a push toward the top of the NCAA Division III mountain. The Panthers (19-5), who are winners of five in a row and 18 of their last 19 games, are ranked eighth in the latest D3Baseball.com poll.
Junior second baseman Tyler Hadzinksy (San Clemente) leads Chapman with 28 hits and eight stolen bases; senior catcher Adam Kordich (Dana Hills High) has driven in a team-best 20 runs and slugged at a .459 clip, and sophomore outfielder Eric Robbins (Los Alamitos) has gotten in on the action with four RBIs in 13 games
Sophomore pitcher Brian Rauh (Lake Forest/Laguna Hills High) has been the Panthers' ace with a 6-0 record, 2.01 earned-run average and 74 strikeouts.
Sophomore pitcher Kevin Osaki (Fountain Valley High) has allowed only six base hits while compiling a 0.96 ERA in nine innings of work. He's also averaging better than a strikeout per inning pitched.
Junior pitcher Roarke Anderson (JSerra High) has not appeared in a game thus far this season.
Chapman faces Claremont Mudd-Scripps Wednesday, with a familiar face in the opposing dugout.
Sophomore pitcher Chad Hadzinsky (San Clemente), brother of Chapman's Tyler, is 2-4 with a 3.31 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 49 innings for the Stags.
Just behind Chapman in the national polls at No. 11 is Pomona-Pitzer. Junior Jeff Frum (St. Margaret's High) has three hits and three walks in three appearances for the Sagehens.
Striking Baseball Blows at Junior College Level
The No. 13 nationally-ranked junior college baseball team, Yavapai (Prescott, Ariz.), is jockeying for position in the NJCAA Playoffs.
Nolan Clark (Capistrano Valley) is batting an impressive .368 with a team-leading .460 on-base percentage. The sophomore also has 14 RBIs. Sophomore Dean Friedberg (Santa Margarita High) has two home runs and 17 RBIs for the Roughriders (25-11).
Non-NJCAA members Orange Coast and Santa Ana sit at Nos. 1 and 3 in the California Community College Baseball Coaches Assn. poll.
OCC's roster includes freshman pitcher/outfielder Garrett Hartwell (Aliso Niguel High), freshman pitcher Chad Thompson (El Toro High), freshman shortstop Austin Wobrock (Newport Harbor) and sophomore outfielder Steven McMichael (Capistrano Valley).
Santa Ana's includes sophomore pitchers Scott Brattvet (Mission Viejo) and Jarret Porter (Trabuco Hills High). Brattvet has a 1.69 ERA in 17 appearances. Freshman pitcher Chris Hubocan (Mission Viejo) who has thrown 10.2 innings, and sophomore first baseman Austin O'Neal (Tesoro Hiigh) has nine RBIs.
Orange Coast (24-4, 10-3 in the Orange Empire Conference) and Santa Ana (18-7, 11-2) meet at noon on April 9 at Santa Ana. In the first conference game between the teams, Santa Ana won at Orange Coast, 4-3, to give their coach, Don Sneddon, his 1,000 victory.
Up the Creek With Plenty of Paddles
The nation's top collegiate rowing teams converged in San Diego for this weekend's San Diego Classic. Third-ranked California's team includes freshmen Cory Darling (Newport Harbor High) and Danielle Riggs (Tesoro High) and sophomores Elizabeth Marsolais (San Clemente) and Heather Hargreaves (Los Alamitos).
The Golden Bears will look to fend off Pacific 10 rivals USC (No. 9) with freshman coxswain Jacqueline Younesi (Corona del Mar High), and UCLA (No. 14) with sophomore starboard Meguire Broersma (Los Alamitos), junior coxswain Ariel Handler (Corona del Mar) and freshman starboard Erin Wenzel (Trabuco Hills).
The San Diego Classic concludes today.
Is there a local alum everybody should know about? Contact Kyle Kensing at email@example.com.