Local spotlight: hooping at the next level

Apr. 1—HENDERSON — After showing out at a local all-star game in Warren County, high school hoopers Damien "Durk" Jones and Adrian Mayes prepare to play on the next level as they mull over their college decision.

Both ball players received multiple junior college, Division-2, and Division-3 offers to continue their basketball careers on the collegiate level.

"As long as the ball keeps dribbling, and my people are straight, I'm not tripping," said Jones.

The two student-athletes, Mayes and Jones, have certainly placed emphasis on being a student first, boasting a GPA of 3.0 and 3.3 respectively.

Halfway through the season, after showing out dropping 13 points against Bunn, Jones received his first JUCO offer. His first "O" planted the idea of college hoops in his mind and put him in contact with the right people. Before that, the thought of playing at university wasn't on his mind. Now with multiple college offers in his back pocket, Jones can prepare for the start of his college career and see how far he can go with it.

"Whatever coach likes me, I might go out there and hoop with them because I like their program," he said.

According to Jones, the two Henderson hoopers talked about playing on the same team at some point in their careers. With Jones as a flashy mid-range playmaker and Hayes as a do-it-all big man, the pair would make quite the duo on the hardwood — not to mention the chemistry fueled by their geographical proximity.

At the basketball showcase last week, multiple college coaches from notable universities like Wake Tech and South Carolina made the trek out to Warrenton to scout talent from the Vance/Warren County area.

"Straight D-1 hoopers were in there," said Jones.

In the all-star game, both teams scored over 100 points. People from across the state gathered to see nationally-ranked players compete as well as witness the dunk contest and three-point event. Mayes showed off his hops with a high-rising tomahawk jam that had the spectators out of their seats.

Jones, who made all-conference at Vance County, and second-team all-conference on his AAU team, Strictly Ballers, went up against Mayes' team which Henderson Collegiate head coach Lamont Whittaker led.

For Mayes, he credited Coach Whittaker for his "huge" role in helping him become a college player. A 6-foot-5 center for the Pride, Mayes expects to be more of a swingman in college and displayed his "perimeter moments" during the game to show college coaches his versatility as a player.

A scrappy competitor, Mayes is chomping at the bit for a chance to prove he belongs with other collegiate-caliber players. He said playing in college has been his dream ever since he was a young boy, and now his dream is finally coming to fruition. Mayes also said he has been working on his three-pointers to improve his range and help space out the floor at the next level.

In an exclusive interview with the Dispatch, Jones mentioned how local coverage of their games helped boost his name recognition.

"Even walking around the store, people would recognize me," said Jones. "It was a good impact. Even people who I don't know, know of me and know I hoop. We didn't have people recognizing us like that before."

Jones said he always knew he was on the right path: from going to college camps his freshman year, sitting on the bench to watch the older players practice, to watching film on every team that is was interested in playing for.

"It's a process; I know when I get to college it's gonna be straight hoops. Sacrifices — that's what I'm going to have to be ready for. That's what it's going to take," said Jones.

Jones and Mayes will have one more season of AAU to show off their full repertoire, before heading to the NCAA to test their strength against older, more experienced opponents.