Pookie POY: Maurice Jones is GLH’s player of the year

SAGINAW,  Michigan — One is left to wonder how Maurice Jones finished fourth in the voting for the Mr. Basketball award this month, now that the AP has named the 5-foot-6 Arthur Hill guard the class A player of the year. (Two of the players ahead of Jones in the voting are in class A, by the way.)

The AP is right and the coaches are wrong this time around. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Jones is the Great Lakes Hoops player of the year for 2010.

The senior guard has quite a resume.

He poured in 49 points in a win over Detroit Pershing, the popular pick to repeat as class A state champions. He had 39 points and for the Lumberjacks in a win over Kalamazoo Central, the reigning class A champions. He beat Saginaw three times and got the dunk in a game that proved the doubters wrong.

In his final game, a heartbreaking loss against Ann Arbor Huron in the quarterfinals, Jones scored 32 points with eight rebounds, seven steals and four assists. For the season, the USC-bound Jones averaged 30 points, 12 assists, five rebounds and four steals per game.

Jones, for his part, remains humble about his ability. He doesn’t, like some, claim to be the best player in the state — just one of them.

“I dont really know (who’s the best player); eveyone has something special about their game and what they did for their team,” said Jones, who admitted he was surprised by the final Mr. Basketball tally. “Everybody has their own opinion.”

Jones says that he wasn’t intimidated by the varsity game in the least, going straight from 8th grade basketball to starting for one of the state’s best teams.

“I just kept doing the things that got me there, and worked on my game to get better,” he said.

Basketball fans and members of the media never seem to miss an opportunity to brand Jones as baskletball’s version of “the little engine that could.” Often, his greatness as a player is spoken of in physical terms — “just imagine how good he would be if he were 6-feet-tall,” many have said.

“That doesn’t bother me at all,” Jones said. ”I’m not going to get that tall, so we’ll never know.”

And while Jones has probably stopped growing, he’s leaving a city of Saginaw rivalry that appears to be getting bigger every year. Jones finished out his senior season with three wins (not counting a forfeit) over hated rival Saginaw High, wins that by themselves would make him a legend in the basketball-crazed city.

“It’s a serious rivalry; everybody takes it serious especially during the season,” said Jones, whose team had a little extra incentive to beat Saginaw this year in the form of a weekly segment on ABC 12 called Inside the High.  ”Once we all saw (Inside the High), we took it to heart because we’re always looked at as the underdogs in Saginaw no matter what.”

To be sure, it was a season of ups and downs for Jones and Arthur Hill. The team had to forfeit seven wins after having been found to have used an ineligible player. The games cost them the Saginaw Valley title.

“We were kind of down and upset about it but once we thought about it,” he said. ”There wasn’t anything we could do, so we came together and put it behind us and thought about it every game.”

Jones, who will join the Trojans this fall, remained committed to the program despite a coaching change. He said he never wavered in his commitment.