When a coach says a player is the next-(enter former prep star name here), it's easy to listen. So when Blessed IJN AAU coach Eric Vaughn says he might have the next Shaun Livingston, a NBA lottery pick last year out of high school, ears perk up faster than usual. Vaughn believes Eshaunte Jones could follow the same road Livingston took.
Jones, a 6-foot-4, 170-pound point guard from Northside High School in Fort Wayne, Ind. that goes by the nickname of Bear, is just a class of 2007 prospect but he's already got the endorsement of Vaughn, his AAU coach.
"Bear is Shaun Livingston with a jump shot," Vaughn says.
Those are strong words. Even stronger when you realize Livingston was taken with the fourth overall pick last year by the Los Angeles Clippers in the draft.
All compliments aside, Jones is a budding point guard prospect. He's bigger than most floor generals. He's quick with the ball and as Vaughn mentioned, he can shoot it better on the wing than Livingston. Jones shot 48 percent from the floor as a sophomore. What Jones doesn't have is that incredible basketball IQ.
Nevertheless, Jones is looking forward to the opportunity to show that he can run a team. With Blessed IJN, Jones will run with Marques Johnson and Richard Semrau - two top prospects in the class of 2006.
"This is my biggest year," Jones said of the upcoming AAU season. "I want to be seen by more schools and I think I'll have that chance playing with the older guys at their level. I know the coaches will come out to see them play and I hope (the coaches) have a chance to see me play and be happy with the way I play."
Word has gotten out about Jones already.
"Recruiting is going pretty good. I'm getting way more letters now this year than I've ever gotten before," Jones said.
Many of those letters have a return address belonging to a high-major programs. Jones said he's heard from Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisville, Notre Dame, Purdue and UCLA.
While it's up to Jones to live up to the billing that has been set for him, he's got the skill package to deserve a close look when Blessed IJN takes to the court at the Kingwood Classic, Real Deal on the Hill and the Spiece Run 'N Slam in April.