Keeping Up with Jones

Tech’s Alvin Jones has increased his free throw shooting percentage this season. (AP Photo)

ATLANTA (Jan. 17) – Alvin Jones is putting the “free” back into his free throws.

After struggling from the so-called charity stripe his first two seasons, Georgia Tech’s 6-11 center has displayed marked improvement in his free throw shooting.

“I worked hard on my free throw shooting over the summer and during the preseason,” said Jones, who is connecting on 64 percent of his free throws, compared with 53.5 percent for his first two seasons.

Not coincidentally, Jones has had the opportunity to work with Tech assistant coach Mark Price, the top free throw shooter in NBA history.

“Coach Price has helped me a lot with my free throw shooting,” says the junior from Lakeland, Fla. “The biggest thing he’s done is given me confidence. He’s helped me a lot on my technique also, but so much of free throw shooting is confidence.

“In high school I was a pretty good free throw shooter,” continued Jones, who has gotten 40 percent of his points from the free throw line, up from 27 percent a year ago. “I used to shoot with my dad almost every day. Coach Price basically just worked with me on all the things that my dad already taught me, but I just got out of the habit of doing.”

Jones’ improvement has been contagious because the Yellow Jackets are shooting nearly 10 percentage points higher from the free throw line this season than last. Tech currently ranks second in the ACC at 71.2 percent, compared with 62.1 percent in 1998-99.

Of course, Jones can do more than shoot free throws. Tech’s second-leading scorer (11.9 points per game) and rebounder (8.4 per game, 5th in the ACC), he is coming off his two most impressive performances of the season in the last week, with 19 points and 13 rebounds against sixth-ranked Duke, followed by 10 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots in the Yellow Jackets’ victory over 16th-ranked Maryland.

Tech (8-7, 1-2 ACC) looks for Jones to continue his strong play as the Jackets host Florida State Wednesday (7:30 p.m., Alexander Memorial Coliseum at McDonald’s Center) and then travel to NC State for a nationally-televised contest at the new Entertainment and Sports Arena (9 p.m., ESPN).

As Tech entertains the Seminoles, Jones can look back on the most prolific game of his career in the Jackets’ 111-108 double-overtime victory in Tallahassee last winter. He connected on 10-for-12 shots from the field on the way to a career-high 28 points, along with 17 rebounds and three blocked shots in 48 minutes.

“I think I scored almost all of my points off of offensive rebounds in that game,” recalls Jones, who contributed 10 of his points in the overtime periods. “I think this time they will focus more on boxing me out, so I might not get as many this time. But if they send two guys to box me out, then hopefully that will free one of my teammates to get the rebound.

“It’s just a matter of taking advantage of whatever opportunities I have. If I have the opportunity to kick it out to our three-point shooters and get eight assists in a game, I’m happy to do that. It’s about doing whatever is best for the team.”

Although he has blocked fewer shots this season as opponents try to avoid shooting over his 110-inch reach and 35-inch vertical jump, Jones still ranks second in the ACC with 2.7 blocks per game. Already Tech’s all-time leader, he continues to climb among the ACC’s elite. His five rejections against Maryland moved him past Clemson’s Sharone Wright (288) and into seventh place in ACC history with 288 blocks in just 79 games.

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