It's not that military school was a bad thing for UVa-bound Teven Jones. Seeing as how it got him exactly what he wanted, the time spent at Fishburne was precisely what the North Carolina native needed.
"I'm just blessed," he told CavsCorner on Sunday night while on his way to Charlottesville. "It worked out the way it needed to work out. But there's so much structure (at a military school) and it's all about discipline. It's a really big change of lifestyle and it's a gift and a curse."
The gift? Being able to focus on academics and athletics in a way that both prepares and promotes. The curse? A dramatic change in a person's social life.
"I have nothing but respect for Coach (Ed) Huckaby and to Fishburne for making this all happen," Jones said. "Without them, I don't know where I'd be. I know I wouldn't be on my way to UVa to get this thing started."
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Jones begins classes this week at Virginia, months ahead of when he should have thanks to a mid-year enrollment, an idea first brought to UVa's attention by Huckaby.
A graduate of A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis, N.C. last June, Jones said he was oh-so-close to giving up the game he loved. He was at the point where the offers he was hoping to receive just weren't coming and he was ready to stop chasing something that didn't look like it was going to happen.
But just like that, things changed.
Within weeks of his decision to keep trying, Huckaby was at a showcase event and saw Jones, who reportedly had a 33-inch vertical and a 4.43 40-yard dash time as a football player for A.L. Brown. A week or so later, coaches from UVa did the same.
"When you stop to think about it, it's really amazing and I can't tell you how blessed I am," Jones said. "Last summer, nobody knew who I was. I had no real offers. I really was going to give it up. And now, I'm on way to starting the biggest experience of my life."
Playing for Fishburne during the first semester, Jones not only committed and ultimately signed with Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers but he became a floor general out on the court.
"I used to be more a scoring guard but I think Coach Huck knew I had more in me," Jones recalled. "And that's what I was able to do during my time at Fishburne: mature and learn how to be a traditional point guard."
He talked about feeling like a leader on and off the floor, something that hadn't come natural. The experience at Fishburne taught him how.
He added that he knows he'll fit in well with UVa's brand of tenacious defense and with gaps available, Jones also thinks he can help create on offense.
Jones' story is now only beginning, at least as far as UVa is concerned. What was a rough December in terms of roster changes with KT Harrell and James Johnson leaving turned into a January that now brings about a rare situation.
After Jones enrolls this week, he will be able practice with the team for the remainder of the 2011-2012 season. It will serve as a redshirt year and give him four years of eligibility starting with the 2012-2013 year.
"It's a positive for Teven and it's a positive for us," Bennett said on Monday. "I think from a basketball standpoint it helps give us some more depth in practice. It gets him ready."
Bennett said that while Jones won't be traveling with the team he does have the unique chance to get his academic career going while also taking part in the strength and conditioning program months in advance.
"The first I heard about it was maybe two, two and a half weeks ago," Jones recalled. "I got back to Fishburne after Christmas and the coaches pulled me aside and asked me if I might be interested. I kind of laughed because of course I was interested!"
From there, the ball got rolling and Bennett credits Huckaby for making it happen. In the end, Jones now gets to transition from prep school to the real thing and he's looking forward to going up against some strong competition in practice.
"I can't tell you how much I respect Jontel Evans and his game," Jones explained to CavsCorner. "Being able to go against him every day, as a point guard I don't think there's any better way to get better than going against the best. I mean, the way he defends, that's going to make you a better player. There's no way it can't. I'm just blessed to have that chance."
Saying he was more excited than nervous, it helps that Jones isn't a high school senior graduating early but rather an older, perhaps wiser incoming mid-year freshman.
"But I still feel like even with the experiences I had with Coach Huck and at Fishburne, I still need more," he added.
And to think, he almost gave up on it all.
"It's kind of weird when I stop to think about it," Jones said. "Just shows that things will happen for you. It's your job to be ready."
Click here to sign up for our 7-day free trial and get all the latest news and join hundreds of other UVa fans in talking about Cavalier football, basketball and recruiting. You won't be disappointed.