Walk-ons don't usually get a lot of the attention in collegiate sports, save for the archetypical walk-on-to-scholarship story we hear about a couple times a year. The Virginia basketball team has had a few memorable moments with theirs in years prior, be it the famous Thomas Rogers three-pointer against Syracuse a couple years ago or Maleek Frazier's runner against Wake Forest in February that made head coach Tony Bennett grin from ear-to-ear.
With third-year walk-on forward Jeff Jones, Virginia fans get to see a player one generation, literally, removed from the first golden era of UVa basketball. Jones' father, also named Jeff, was a point guard at UVa from 1978-82 and helped lead the team to the Final Four in 1981 after winning the NIT one year prior. After graduating, he served as an assistant coach under Terry Holland from 1982-90. He took reins of the program after Holland retired and led the program through most of the 1990s, leaving in 1998. In his eight years as head coach, he made five NCAA tournament appearances with an berth in the Sweet 16 in 1993 and the Elite Eight in 1995, and won an NIT championship of his own in 1992.
The younger Jones, who had a New York Times feature written about him in 2014, scored four points in eight games last season. In 2013-14, he had three points in 10 appearances, making his collegiate debut against James Madison.
Part of the so-called Green Machine, named for the pinnies the walk-ons wear over their jerseys during practice, Jones hasn't had the easiest path to Virginia. Health scares, detailed in a Daily Press article in 1993 and by NBC 29 in 2012, were disruptions en route to a three-year stint on the varsity team at nearby St. Anne's-Belfield School, and through it all, the younger Jones opted to stay close to home. He told VirginiaSports.com in 2013 that he chose UVa for its location along with "family tradition, and it's a great school with great athletics and great academics."
His modest nature, emblematic of Bennett's pillar of servanthood, was on display in his postgame interview last season after scoring against Tennessee State.
Jones might not get all the attention directed toward the likes of Malcom Brogdon and Anthony Gill, but he is a visible reminder of previous stretches of success under two of the three most successful coaches in Virginia history (Holland and his father). The other coach in that group, Bennett, can achieve that level of prosperity this year - even if it won't be University Hall rocking any more.