It’s not that often a high school kid from California decides to leave the Golden State for the Land of Lincoln to attend college. Bennett Williams, arguably the best player on the Illini football team last season, did it. The writer of this article did it. And most recently, Tevian Jones, a 4-star small forward, gave his pledge back on April 3 to play for Brad Underwood’s squad.
Jones hails from Culver City, California — part of greater Los Angeles — and on that day he committed to Illinois, I immediately felt a connection with a player who has yet to even arrive for classes on campus.
For a long time, like many Southern California high school hoops stars who have dreams of playing in the NBA one day, Tevian Jones was a heavy lean to sign with the Arizona Wildcats. To some, UCLA is the dream school — the history and tradition. To others, USC is the ‘cool school’ with shiny new facilities and a head coach with a supermodel wife.
The University of Arizona, just an hour’s flight away from Los Angeles, is a basketball factory and a school that churns out NBA prospects left and right each year.
Arizona often lands California’s Mr. Basketball. Some of the most recent of those names include Stanley Johnson, Aaron Gordon, Chase Budinger and, before him, Hassan Adams. The likely top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft is a one-and-done who went to Arizona. Arizona has a ton to offer recruits, and it appeared in all likelihood that’s where Tevian Jones was heading.
Then this happened as the NCAA Hoops season was winding down:
Perception is often reality when it comes to NCAA investigations. Even if Sean Miller did nothing wrong and there are holes in SI’s reporting and what the FBI did — the entire ordeal still reeks of a toxic situation in Tucson — Tevian Jones likely wanted no part in. We’ve seen the NCAA punish programs with postseason bans in the past, and while a lot is still up in the air, there’s little doubt there’s instability and insecurity in the hallways of Arizona’s basketball facility.
In comes Illinois. The school has a lot to offer a talented young man from Los Angeles: playing time and the chance to be in a major conference. There are talented young guards to play with who play in an uptempo, press-your-neck system. It’s an outstanding academic institution and a campus town atmosphere that parallels what student-athletes have at Arizona.
Every parent wants their kid to have options in life, many options to explore passions and take risks and live life to its fullest. Here’s to you, Tevian Jones.
From the West Coast to the Midwest, there’s ample opportunity for success in the cornfields. And when winter comes howling through the quad in between Lincoln Hall and Noyes Laboratory, just know that there’s always a warm fire burning inside that State Farm Center/Assembly Hall.
Illinois welcomes you, Tevian. Remember to bring a jacket. You’ll need it by October.
I would know, I made the move once, too.