Before the season, Lowell boys’ basketball coach Robert Ray took aside a number of his key returnees from last year’s record-setting team and talked to them about what their increased roles for 2006-07 would be.
One of those players was Arthur Jones, a talented all-around player who, although capable of doing so, often appeared hesitant to take over games last season from a scoring standpoint.
"I let him know we wanted him to be more aggressive offensively," said Ray, now in his seventh season as the Cardinals’ coach. "We feel if he is scoring in double digits for us we should be pretty hard to beat."
Jones, a 6-foot-1 senior forward, has met those expectations and more, averaging 12.4 points a game in Academic Athletic Association play to help the Cardinals to a 7-1 league record and 18-3 overall mark.
Jones’ initial reluctance to be a scorer stems from his time as a 5-6 point guard setting up teammates on the frosh-soph level during his first two years at Lowell. However, a growth spurt before his junior year forced Ray to move Jones to the post last season for the undersized Cardinals. The two positions, although starkly contrasting, have helped the versatile Jones flourish in 2006-07.
"I think my background as a guard definitely helps," said Jones, a second-team All-AAA selection last season for a Cardinals team that won a school-record 30 games, captured the AAA championship and made NorCals. "This season, I have the confidence to bring the smaller players down low and to take bigger players off the dribble and get to the basket."
Jones will look to apply those talents Friday, when the Cardinals take on the Washington Eagles, in the annual Battle of the Birds meeting at Kezar Pavilion.
A dazzling performer in every facet of the game, Jones is a classic stat-sheet stuffer, with big contributions in the rebounding, assists, steals and blocks departments. But this season, he realizes that for the Cardinals to be successful, he will have to fill up the scoring column, too.
"I worked a lot over the past year on establishing my confidence," Jones said. "Whenever we play a tough opponent, I know the team will be counting on me to score and I have to step it up in the big games."
Along with key veterans Travis Hom and Jordan Wong, Jones has guided Lowell through the team’s most successful stretch in recent history, as the Cardinals have dropped just one league game over the past 1½ seasons.
"We’ve had a lot of success playing together," said Hom, a first-team All-AAA pick last year as a sophomore point guard. "We feed off each other pretty well and Arthur has really worked hard to become a great player."
» WHEN: Friday
» WHERE: Kezar Pavilion
» GIRLS’ GAME: Lowell (20-1, 6-0) vs. Washington (8-11, 6-0), 6:30 p.m.
» BOYS’ GAME: Lowell (18-3, 7-1) vs. Washington (14-8, 6-2), 8 p.m.