Herbert Jones, a 6-foot-7 wing from the Alabama Crimson Tide, is considered to be one of the most versatile defenders in the 2021 NBA draft.
Jones, the reigning Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, increased his three-point percentage from 7.1 percent as a junior all the way to 35.1 percent as a senior. He was the only player in a high-major conference to record a block percentage above 4.0 percent, steal percentage above 3.0 percent and assist percentage above 20.0 percent this past season.
He recently caught up with HoopsHype to discuss how he improved his shooting, how football helped him play better basketball as well as earning Academic All-District honors.
Please note this interview was minorly edited in its transcript for clarity.
You’re known as one of the better defenders in this class. Where did you develop that mentality?
This Herb Jones defensive possession was so good I had to share. Cuts off Keon twice, forces reversal. Digs down in help on the drive, then closes out under control onto driver. Cut off again, reversal. Tags athletic roller in Pons. Finishes by sending Springer packing in help. pic.twitter.com/sJpNasuJWk
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) May 20, 2021
Herbert Jones: It started when I was younger. I really loved football. I always wanted to be a cornerback or a safety. I took those skills over to the basketball side of things. When you talk about basketball, a lot of people want to score a lot. I wanted to find something that other people may not have enjoyed doing that would help me play meaningful minutes. I found my way on the defensive end. I’ve always been taught that your defense follows you everywhere. I don’t care about how many points I score. I just want to have a long career. I want to play in the NBA for as many years as I can.
How were you able to make such a drastic improvement to your jump shot before your senior season?
Herb Jones does whatever is needed to help Bama win, from the glamour work to the dirty work. 21 PTS & 13 REBS (6 off) w/ 4 ASTS, 3 STLS & 1 BLK to lead the comeback.
Projected 2nd round pick & potential draft steal, especially if the 3PT shooting continues to trend upwards pic.twitter.com/dxn3hRpITy
— Jam Hines (@jamontheboards) March 14, 2021
HJ: I think the extra time from the pandemic kind of helped me out. I didn’t have to worry about too much other stuff. When I could, I’d go outside. I was still rehabbing from my broken wrist injury. I know that the unusual offseason from the pandemic hurt some people but I was able to turn it into a positive. I just tried to use as much of my free time as I could to just work on the mechanics of my jump shot, even if that was laying in my bed and perfecting my form. Still, it was killing two birds with one stone because I was rehabbing my wrist. I worked out two or three times a day. I got in the gym whenever I could.
What role did you play in helping Alabama become more of a basketball school?
HJ: I enjoyed going to the football games. It was a great atmosphere. I loved the way that the culture was, which was nothing short of excellence. They adhered to a high standard. I wanted the same standard with the basketball team. As a captain, I just really wanted my teammates to come in and be themselves. I didn’t want them to come in and be nervous being around an older group of guys. I wanted them to just come in and play their game. They didn’t get recruited to Alabama off of luck. I just tried to help them be themselves and be confident and have fun.
We started taking that in the right direction. We just had to work. The amount of work we thought we needed to put in coming into college was totally different than what we needed to be doing. Once we found out how much work was needed for us to have a shot to be good on a national level, the work paid off.
I played with Collin Sexton and Kira Lewis so I knew that a lot of eyes were watching them. I knew people were coming to see those guys. When scouts were there, I wanted them to think that my attitude was good and I played well and I gave it my all. I knew if I played as hard as I could, it would help me eventually. I didn’t know it would pan out like this but I knew that it would help me eventually.
What is the main thing you are stressing to NBA teams during your interviews?
HJ: I’ll be able to adjust to whatever system or style of play any team wants me to play. I’m a very hard worker. I’ll play whatever role they need me to play. I’m not set on being one thing. I’m there to help the team win in any way that I can. I’m still working on my jump shot. NBA teams see it. They tell me that it’s just going to come with time and I know that. I don’t have too much stress about the shooting because I know I’ll work on that. I just try to tell teams that I’m a great teammate. I’m not coming into the draft process feeling entitled. I know I have to work for whatever I get. However it pans out, I am starting back over and getting back to work.
What are some of the things that you like to do when you’re not playing basketball?
HJ: Off the court, I’m super laid back. I’m very selfless. I try to help out whenever I can. I’m super simple. I like playing video games and I like going fishing. Right now, I’m playing Call of Duty. I’m playing Madden. I play NBA 2K. I definitely want to play against myself first to see how they built me there and then I’ll play as myself. I’d love to get into coaching. I don’t know which level I’d work with but I want to help kids go to college so it would probably be high school basketball. I really, really want to help kids that don’t usually get the opportunity to go to college. I want kids to get a chance to go to big universities and see the world.
I’ve heard that you were also an excellent student during your time in college.
Herbert Jones, the SEC Player and Defensive Player of the Year, was among five Alabama players who made the league's Winter Academic Honor Roll.
— Jerry Tipton (@JerryTipton) April 21, 2021
HJ: My mom and my dad both taught in the school system where I’m from for more than two decades. I’ve just been around and heard so many stories. My dad taught physical education and my mom taught first grade. I was in my mom’s class. I was never late on any of her assignments! [Laughs] But that’s definitely one of the reasons I got my degree in business management. I was fortunate enough to finish in three and a half years then I started taking courses towards my master’s degree. The programs and the resources that they have within the business school at Alabama are outstanding. They have so many opportunities for people to intern while they’re in school or as soon as they graduate. I just wanted to major in something that would give me a variety of options to work after basketball.