Mike Jones had to make a decision. Will he play close to home or will he play for a Hall of Fame coach? The 6-foot-6, 210-pound small forward from Lower Richland High School in Hopkins, S.C., took an official visit to South Carolina over the weekend and met with the Syracuse coaches on Monday. He gathered enough information to make his pick.
After weighing his options with both schools, the No. 37 ranked player in the class of 2006 verbally committed to Syracuse shortly after an in-home visit with Jim Boeheim and assistant Rob Murphy.
"When I was up there on the visit, I just felt at home," Jones said. "Coach Murphy and I have a really good relationship. He's like a mentor to me. He's really cool and I can see us getting along for a long time."
The Big East power is getting a multi-faceted player that can dominate on the blocks but also step out and be a force on the perimeter. He proved that over the AAU circuit with the South Carolina Ravens. An active and aggressive defender, Jones has very few holes in his game coming into the college game. He'll need to improve his ball-handling skills and quickness.
Jones said he felt like he knew he was going to be a part of the program when he was playing with the team on his official visit.
"When I was up there and playing with the guys, I felt like I've been playing with them for a long time," Jones said. "That is how they treated me."
Picking between Syracuse and South Carolina took him a little longer than anticipated. Jones, who was just on USC's campus last weekend, said he thought about the opportunity of playing in front of his family and friends but in the end, the Orange won out.
"It was a real hard decision," Jones said. "It was hard because USC is the home school and that is where I wanted to go ever since I was a kid. But Syracuse came along and I feel like it's the best decision I could make for myself and my family."
Jones makes no secrets about his next stop after college.
"Hopefully the NBA," Jones said. "(Boeheim) has a good tradition of making NBA players. Hopefully I can learn a lot from him and the other coaches."
Jones joins Paul Harris in the 2006 recruiting class for the Orange. They are also loading up in 2007, too. They landed Scoop Jardine on Wednesday and snagged Johnny Flynn at the end of the summer.