John Denton's Knights Insider: Jones is Ready to Roll at UCF

March 31, 2010

Secure Your Season Tickets for the 2009-10 Campaign

Press Conference Photo Gallery

Press Conference Video

By John Denton

Click here to receive the Knights Insider via email

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Not long after he returns to Orlando next week following a visit to The Final Four in Indianapolis, new UCF coach Donnie Jones plans to get in his car and drive the state of Florida from the Miami to the panhandle.

But it will be no vacation or a series of beach visits for Jones, who was officially introduced as UCF's new basketball coach on Tuesday at a ceremony at UCF Arena before several hundred fans.

Instead, Jones will be bouncing from one high school to another across the state in hopes of blanketing Florida like the summer sunshine. Jones used to do the very same thing when he was an assistant at Florida under Billy Donovan for 11 seasons. Now, he wants to do the same thing again to re-introduce himself to the coaches in Florida and let them know that he wants even the same recruits that Donovan will assuredly be chasing.

``The first day we can get back out on the road is next Thursday and I've already identified a group of coaches that I want to visit with and go see,'' Jones said. ``Really, it will be like a homecoming for me. I just think there are a lot of untapped resources here in the state as far as recruiting. And I just think there are a lot of opportunities here in this job.''

Jones knows there's no time to rest, not when the task before him is to greatly upgrade the talent base on a UCF team that already has a solid core of Keith Clanton, Marcus Jordan, A.J. Rompza, A.J. Tyler and Isaac Sosa. Jones has already told UCF administrators that he'll go after some of the best recruits in Florida and he expects to land his share of them.

``The thing we have to do here with this program is take that next step with the kids that we are recruiting,'' Jones said. ``We want the big kids who want play in the Big East and play in the SEC. That was our mentality at Marshall, and when you get the best players you have a chance to play with (Conference USA powers) Memphis and UTEP. That's what it's going to take to make that next step.''

Jones was bubbling with confidence and oozing charisma on Tuesday as he talked to Knights fans about hanging championship banners around UCF Arena and he spoke boldly about ``finally waking up the sleeping giant around UCF'' and helping the school reach its maximum potential.

That sort of confidence, combined with a detailed plan of attack helped Jones convince UCF President Dr. John Hitt that he was the right coach to lead the basketball program. Dr. Hitt liked the fact that Jones talked boldly about going after the elite level recruits and winning big at UCF.

``I'm reminded of a quote that's attributed to Henry Ford, something to the affect of, `Whether a man thinks he can or that he can't then he's right.' Well, Donnie thinks that he can,'' Dr. Hitt said. ``He's a guy who is going to go after the top talent. He's methodical and well-organized and he expects to win and win big. That will carry him a long way here. We know that he's been an effective recruiter elsewhere and we think he'll do the same thing here at UCF.''

Tyler, UCF's starting center much of last season, got to see Jones' recruiting style up close years ago when he courted his older brother, Garrett, to the University of Florida. He feels that Jones will be well-liked among the UCF players because of his tireless work ethic and passion for basketball.

``I can't wait to learn his system and I'm just going to buy into what he says and do whatever Coach Jones wants,'' said Tyler, who was among the group of UCF players who met with Jones Tuesday afternoon. ``My brother played for him for three years at Florida as an assistant coach and he recruited me a little bit. I've had communication with him over the years. He's real, he makes you feel comfortable and he's someone who works really hard. You see that passion and you want to play for him. And you see that he's a good guy and a guy that you want to play for.''

Jones, a West Virginia native, said he was willing to leave his comfort zone at Marshall and jump at the chance to coach at UCF because he saw this opportunity as a once-in-a-lifetime type of chance. He said the chance to recruit major athletes and win on a big-time level lured him to UCF.

``I prayed about it a lot, and in my heart I just thought that I needed to take the next step as a coach,'' Jones said. ``I think we can build this program dramatically with the resources that we have, the area that we're in and I just felt this was an area where I could take things to another level. It might take time to build that, but I can just see things really taking off here.''

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFatheltics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.