Romar Jones could always play. That was never the issue.
The things holding him back from being the best basketball player he could be — the best person he could be — had nothing to do with what he did once he got on the court.
"I had personal problems, stuff I don't want to get into, but I'd bring it with me when I got on the floor," said Jones, a 6-foot-2 senior guard for Friends. "I'd fallen off from what was important to me... eventually I came to realize I was capable of doing a lot more than what I was doing."
Jones' transformation began after a turbulent junior season in which he led the Falcons in scoring but Friends struggled to a 13-17 record and finished in a tie for sixth in the KCAC.
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This season, Jones averaged 17.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals on his way to KCAC Player of the Year honors and leading Friends (25-6) to both the league's regular season and tournament titles along with a berth in the NAIA Division II Tournament at Point Lookout, Mo. The Falcons open play today against Bethel (Ind.).
Jones was also selected to the league's all-defensive team.
"I think the biggest difference has been Romar's approach to his basketball team," Friends coach Dale Faber said. "He now has the confidence and the willingness to make his teammates feel confident. I also think he's much more comfortable with everything in his life at this point."
A couple of things helped Jones and the Falcons in their rise to the top of the KCAC. Jones' cousin, Chris Jackson, joined Friends this season after transferring from Barton County Community College and gave him some stability not only away from basketball, but helped him on the court, too, averaging 18.2 points.
"It's been great having my cousin around," Jones said. "The whole team has bonded more this season... we spend a lot more time around each other away from basketball and that's important. Last year, it seemed like once practice and games were over we all went our own way."
Jones also got back to his faith, something he felt like he'd strayed from. He said reading the Bible helps keep him focused on what's important.
"I used to really like Samson and the Judges," Jones said, "but now I'm more into John. He just had a big 'ol heart."