The first result of a Google search for Curtis Jones is an English soccer player. The second is a former Penn State basketball player.
But toward the bottom of the first page, the profile for UB’s star shooting guard Curtis Jones can be found.
It’s never been easy for Jones to gain recognition, and it’s something he’s not only become used to, but also embraced.
“It’s been like that for most of my life to be honest,” Jones told The Spectrum. “It’s definitely good to come out of nowhere, because you open more eyes that way.”
The 6’5” sophomore from Minneapolis led the Bulls in scoring during the regular season this year, averaging 15.1 points per game. But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
Jones received zero Division-I offers to play basketball coming out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in Minnesota. So unlike most Division-I players, he began his college basketball career at a community college.
Coming off the heels of Section 4 and Class 4A titles at Cretin-Derham, Jones elected to play at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa — one of the top Division-I basketball player-producing junior colleges in the country.
Jones wasn’t going to let a lack of D-I offers dissuade him from chasing his dream of becoming a professional basketball player.
“I was never really too panicked about the situation,” Jones said. “But once I got the Indian Hills offer, I pretty much knew I was going D-I out of there.”
Even though Jones knew that his time at Indian Hills would be short-lived, he made the most of it, averaging 12.1 points per game, as well as 6 rebounds and 5.5 assists during the 2020-21 season.
After a successful season in Iowa, Jones received multiple Division-I offers from mid-major programs such as South Florida, North Texas, Mount St. Mary’s and UB.
He ultimately chose UB because of its reputation as a top team in the Mid-American Conference, something the program has earned over the past 10 years thanks to coaches like Bobby Hurley and Nate Oats.
Jones contributed as a freshman, mainly serving as a stalwart contributor off the bench. He averaged 2.5 points and 1.3 assists while playing 12.1 minutes per game in relief of then-senior guard Ronaldo Segu.
Senior forward LaQuill Hardnett chimed in on what Jones was like during his first season as a Bull, saying, “He asked a lot of questions, like that’s all Curt did since the first day I met him...he was just ‘What’s this about?’ ‘What are we gonna do here?’ Last year was just his feeling-out time.”
Jones sought out advice when needed, and received help along the way during his freshman year.
“I want to shout out to my guy John Galvin because he helped me,” Jones said about the graduate assistant who helped with his transition to UB. “He was the one rebounding for me every day and things like that.”
Now, a year later, Jones finds himself in more of a leadership role as the team’s top scorer, a stark contrast from the 2021-22 campaign.
But the departure of Segu (14.9 points per game) and Jeenathan Williams (19.1 points per game) — two key starters on last year’s team — created a vacancy on the Bulls’ roster.
While leading the Bulls with an average of 31.4 minutes played a game, Jones has embraced the added responsibilities.
“Really, I just wanted to help the team win and be a big part of the team,” Jones said. “And then everything else that came with it has just been a blessing.”
In what has been a shaky regular season for UB (15-16, 9-9 MAC), Jones and the rest of the Bulls will look for redemption in the MAC Tournament this week.
UB will need to depend on Jones’ scoring ability in order to make a run in this year’s tournament. But Jones said scoring wasn’t necessarily his specialty right away.
“I was never even really a big scorer like that, I just played the game the right way,” Jones said.
Scoring highlights of Jones’ season include a 32-point performance against St. Bonaventure (5-10 from three-point range), a 30-point outing against Western Michigan (5-11 from three-point range) and a 27-point game against Ball State (11-21 from the field).
Over a three-game span in November (against Howard, George Mason and Canisius), Jones averaged 22 points per game while shooting over 50% from the field and nearly 40% from three-point range.
Now, the No. 6 seed Bulls find themselves matched up against the No. 3 seed Akron Zips (21-10, 13-5 MAC) in the first round of the MAC Tournament on Thursday in Cleveland.
Jones has fully gained the trust of his teammates and coaches with the minutes he’s played and the relationships he’s built.
Last offseason, there were only five players that stayed on campus during the spring and summer months — Jones and Hardnett among them.
“It was crazy, just five of us working out every day, doing everything every day,” Hardnett said “It really grew us closer together.”
At the start of last season, Hardnett and the UB basketball program embraced Jones. The MAC Tournament will show how greatly the team has reaped the rewards.
Jones finished the regular season 14th in the MAC with 15.1 points per game and will look to increase that number heading into postseason play.
Jones is just a sophomore, and many within the program feel the best is yet to come from the once unrecognized recruit.
“I think Curt has a future in the NBA if you ask me,” Hardnett said.
Brandon Cochi is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com