Basketball

PREP BASKETBALL: Forest Park boys focusing on ‘the collective’ in coach Jay Jones’ first full season

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By Gabriel Stovall

gstovall@thecrescentbuzz.com

JONESBORO, Ga. — Jay Jones was a man of few words during Wednesday’s Clayton County media day festivities at Mundy’s Mill High School.

But those words painted a pinpoint specific picture of what the still fairly new Forest Park boys basketball coach envisions for his version of the hoops program.

“We want to build a family environment here,” Jones said. “Our guys have worked hard here to create that over the summer and in workouts, and we want to focus on just creating that positive family environment.”

Jones ascended to the helm of the boys hoops program in the middle of the 2016-17 season, after former coach, Steven Love resigned. All Jones did from that point was guide his alma mater to string together more than a few impressive wins on the way to the Panthers’ first state basketball tournament appearance in several years.

Forest Park finished a 12-16 campaign with an 81-49 loss to eventual Class AAAAAA state runner-up Brunswick in the first round of the state tournament. Jones did this while also tutoring one of the top players in Georgia in now-Boston College freshman, Avery Wilson. His efforts were recognized by his being named the 2016-17 Region 4-AAAAAA coach of the year.

But when talking to Jones Wednesday, you got the feeling that those things — while important pieces to the grand scheme of program building — were no longer where his focus is, as the 2017-18 season is just weeks away from tip-off.

“Last year felt like a full season for us,” Jones said. “You know, Avery was an exciting player for us and our program, and his success now being at Boston College means a lot. But this year we’re focusing more on the collective. And we believe that will build for us an even greater team environment.”

Besides Wilson, who averaged close to 30 points per game last season for the Panthers, Forest Park will lose four other seniors, including second team all-region performer, Jahseel Herbert who averaged a little more than 13 points per game.

But Jones is looking to players like 6-foot senior point guard, Jayden Walker and fellow senior, 6-foot-3 guard Fabian Hill  to provide leadership. He’ll have some size returning as well with 6-foot-6 junior post player Justin Eboigbe returning. Eboigbe is also football standout for the Panthers.

“Fabian has put in a lot of work and I’ve seen a lot of growth from him ,” Jones said. “So it’s really going to be exciting to see how all that work and development will show up on the court. And Jayden, he’s a third year varsity starter at point guard, so we’re going to depend on his quiet confidence to lead us as well.”

Though Forest Park may appear to lack star power in Jones’ first full season, the 2000 Forest Park grad says it wouldn’t alter his approach to coaching his team much, if at all.”

“No, it really doesn’t change,” he said. “Everybody knew a player like Avery could score. But I think the more we focus on the collective this year, it’s going to add more to our overall attack and make us an even better team as a whole.”

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