Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Dale Jones attacked his rehabilitation with the same vigor as playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Less than a year after suffering a season-ending ACL injury, the University of Iowa men’s basketball forward is nearly back to 100 percent. It has been a process Jones accepted and embraced.
“It’s hard to swallow reality,” said Jones, a Waterloo, Iowa, native. “I have taken the longest route of any guy on this team, going to junior college, transferring here, and then getting hurt. The whole nine yards.
“It has been a tough road, but I feel like after I get fully healthy and 100 percent strong, get all that mental stuff out of the way, and get my foot back in the game, I’ll be a big asset for this team.”
Jones was on his way to being a versatile weapon for the Hawkeyes last season — his first in Iowa City after transferring from Tyler (Texas) Junior College. At 6-foot-7, 227 pounds, Jones has the body to rebound and compete in the post, coupled with the shooting ability to stretch opposing defenses.
In six games, Jones averaged 5.5 points and three rebounds, while shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point range. He scored a career-high 16 points, making 4-of-6 3-point field goals, in a win over Coppin State last November.
It was the first day in December when Jones tore his ACL in his right knee for a second time. He had surgery to repair the damage and missed the remainder of the season. The rehabilitation followed; he’s at 85-90 percent a little more than 10 months removed from the injury.
“I am trying to work myself in as much as I can (in practice), but not overdo it,” said Jones. “The biggest thing for me is staying healthy. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. You can’t rush these things. I know a lot of guys in the NBA that take a year or a year and a half off to get back to your full self.”
It’s why Jones will ease his way into the 2016-17 season. He’s too big of a weapon on a Hawkeye roster that has just three upperclassmen.
“I’m going to be patient; there really isn’t a timetable,” said Jones. “At the end of the day I have to live and play with this knee, so I have to be cautious.”
McCaffery envisions Jones as a key player for the Hawkeyes in 2016-17, so much so that Jones was one of Iowa’s two player representatives at the 2016 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Media Day in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 13 despite his limited Division I experience.
“Dale is going to be an impact player for our team as long as he doesn’t have any setbacks,” said McCaffery. “Thus far his rehab has gone exactly how we would have hoped, so I am excited for him.”
Jones has guard-like shooting skills in a big man’s body. It’s a valuable piece to pair with returning starter and preseason All-Big Ten selection Peter Jok.
“(Dale) is a scoring forward,” said McCaffery. “He can put points on the board, but also rebounds. He is going to provide us with some experience. Even though he wasn’t playing for us last year all that much because of his injury, he was a junior college All-American. He has a maturity that I love about him.”
Jones basked in the spotlight in D.C.
“Being there and seeing all the lights and people being so engaged was amazing,” said Jones. “I always dreamt of being in this position. I took it all in, thanked the man above, and appreciated that I was in this position.
“I could be home, laid up and not even playing. I am trying to be that all-around player that McCaffery needs me to be.”