DeVante’ Jones hasn’t had much time to relax since Michigan’s men’s basketball season ended last month with a Sweet Sixteen loss to Villanova.
The playmaker impressed at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and barely had time to catch his breath at home in New Orleans before continuing on to Dallas – it’s all part of showing off his ability at the NBA.
This is Jones’ second time in the NBA draft process, and he feels better prepared for his challenges.
“Last year, I didn’t know what to expect. I was new to the process,” he said this week on “Defend the Block,” a Podcast produced by Michigan Athletics. Jones “feels good about himself” and is moving better than a year ago, he explained.
“I’m a much better player. I’m more explosive than I was last year. I shoot the ball much better. The IQ for the game has increased,” he said.
Jones got his first taste of the pros when he declared for the 2021 NBA Draft after playing three seasons at Coastal Carolina. The point guard attended the G League Elite Camp but was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine, and he eventually withdrew and transferred to Wolverines in a bid to prove his mettle in a major program.
The transition to Michigan was not seamless. Jones struggled with misconduct and handling a complex offense in the opening weeks of the 2021-22 season.
“The way I started was definitely not planned. But like I said, I feel like everything happens for a reason. When I was playing, I got a bit peckish,” Jones said. “I saw all the comments. I saw everything. I saw the doubt. All of that motivated me to improve.
In his final 12 regular season games, he averaged 13.2 points, 5.8 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals as he helped lead Michigan to the NCAA Tournament. Although a head injury limited his playoff appearance, Jones feels he has shown his ability to play at the next level.
“I feel like a unique player. I can score the ball, I can pass, I can play-do, I can rebound. Defend, fly, support, bring energy. He’s the guy I am. I have nothing to change. I don’t have to be someone I’m not,” Jones said.
As he reflected on his brief career in Ann Arbor, Jones said he grew as both a player and a leader. He enjoyed the biggest stage provided by the Michigan uniform — like playing past Tracy McGrady, Duncan Robinson and Erik Spoelstra in a mid-December win over Southern Utah.
And, in his fondest memory from his time in the Maize and Blue, Jones stamped Michigan’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament (and met Logan Paul) while beating Ohio State in Columbus.
“We didn’t have Hunt. We didn’t have our coach. Everyone thought we were going to be blown away. … Coming in, we were all confident. I knew we were going to win. The team looked great – we looked hungry in the locker room,” Jones said.
“This game was perfect for me and for the team, and for Michigan.”
Overall, Jones said, he left the program with gratitude for the past year.
“Thank you Ann Arbor,” he said. “Thank you to everyone in Michigan for hugging me with open arms. I know it wasn’t the perfect season we wanted, but I feel like it ended in a good mood. I’m just grateful for all of you.
Photo of the report by Marc-Grégor Campredon / MGoBlog.com.