Wide receiver Basmine Jones knows a blessing when he sees it, and today, Jones has thousands of Arkansas State football fans counting theirs.
The fiercely recruited Warren (Ark.) H.S. star comes from an 2008 class that sent five players to Div. 1 programs. As a high school senior, Jones signed a letter of intent to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks, and fellow Warren receivers Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, and Chris Gragg signed with UA soon after, rounding out an ’08 Hogs recruiting class fit to make the driest football fan drool.
Unfortunately, Jones’ personally planned road to big time football was detoured out of high school due to academic qualifiers. Shipped to Fort Scott (KS) Community College, Jones was redshirted last season and planned to report to the Razorbacks on scholarship for the 2010 season.
Thanks to another academic snag, Jones has taken his three years of eligibility and enrolled at Arkansas State to line up for the Red Wolves, historically a David to the Razorbacks' Goliath when it comes to in-state recruiting.
Jones described in detail the flurry of events triggered when his mother set her mind that her increasingly frustrated son would be enrolled at a university and playing football somewhere in 2010.
“After Fort Scott, I didn’t know where I was going to play, or even if I was going to play. Everything got upside down in Kansas. I had to redshirt, then I didn‘t have the college algebra I needed to play at Arkansas this year. All I really knew was I’d already missed a year of being on the field, and I needed to play.”
“I wanted to stay in the state, and I guess it was one day last week my mom called the coaches at Arkansas State,” he said. “This was a last minute thing and it was all pretty hectic. She got in touch with one of the coaches, they called me, left a message, I called them back, we played phone tag for a while, then we finally got to talk last week and they asked if I could come for a visit Monday (Aug. 2).”
Jones said he was so set on the Hogs in ‘08, he didn’t give much thought to the state’s only other D-1 program back when Red Wolves assistant David Gunn pitched him A-State the first time.
“I’d kind of pushed them to the side along with everybody else because of the Razorbacks,” Jones said.
In addition to the Red Wolves, Tennessee and Ole Miss were among the “everybody else” after the 6-1, 200 pounder in ‘08.
Once Jones and his mom started poking around Arkansas State, he was thrilled to discover a lot has changed since he shrugged off the Red Wolves two years ago. A-State’s hiring of Hugh Freeze as offensive coordinator means that for the time being, the Red Wolves offensive attack is one that’s wide open and executed at a breakneck pace; a receiver-friendly system that attracted Jones to the Red Wolves this time around like a fat man to a free buffet.
The news of Basmine Jones sightings Wednesday at ASU has been lighting up Razorback message boards. In a dose of Div. 1 state unity rarely found in a two-program state, an overwhelming majority of posts on Hogville.net praised Jones’ abilities and potential, the Red Wolves’ improved recruiting efforts, and a handful of Hog fans even pontificated about an ASU football future dotted with major money-game upsets and Sun Belt conference championships.
And, for good reason: the Red Wolves come into the season with a potent defense that led the Sun Belt in ‘09 anchored by Sun Belt Pre-Season Defensive MVP Bryan Hall, and…
“The offense,” Jones gushed through an audible grin. “Oh yeah, the offense. That got me. You’re talking the spread, no huddle, hurry up, moving fast… there ought to be a lot of ball slingin’,”
In a talented group of Warren ‘08 recruits, several scouts rated Jones as the best of the bunch; an all-around athlete capable of playing WR or defensive back and a player who wowed scouts at senior summer camps.
“It feels good to hear things like that, I’m not going to lie, it does feel good,” Jones said. “But all of us who came from Warren in 2008, we’re all grown men now and we all have our own jobs to do.”
Jones’ job right now is to learn a new playbook he was issued on Wednesday and be as ready as can be expected for the Red Wolves first fall practice today at 5 p.m. Words like “big,” “physical,” and “fast,” are peppered throughout national scouting reports of Jones, whose arsenal includes 4.48 speed and a tremendous leaping ability.
“I’ve got to get my legs back,” Jones said. “I was working out before I got here and now I’m working out and studying the playbook. I don’t know what number I’m going to wear, I don’t know where I’ll be on the depth chart because there are a lot of guys in front of me who have been here a while or during the summer and I just got here (Wednesday). I have work to do to get in the physical shape I want to be in and I have a lot of new plays to learn, but that will all come together. I’m part of a team again, and that’s what’s important, just having teammates and knowing I‘m going to get a chance to play. I haven’t played a game since high school. This has been a long time coming.
“Being at Arkansas State, the way the coaches worked to get me in here, the way everybody welcomed me in, it is a blessing from God the way everything turned out, truly a blessing. I feel like I’m home.”