By Kevin Sweeney
Monmouth’s win over Manhattan last night didn’t come without a cost, as the Hawks may have lost senior captain Deon Jones for the rest of the season. Jones, a 6’6″ forward from Wilmington, Delaware, collided with Manhattan guard Thomas Capuano with 10:18 to go and immediately grabbed his right hand and wrist. Jones came back to the bench in the second half with the wrist heavily wrapped, and did not return to the game. After the game, Monmouth coach King Rice announced that Jones had 2 breaks in his right hand and that he would likely need surgery. A final decision will be made today, but Jones’ season appears to be over.
Losing Jones would be a crushing blow to Monmouth, who look to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. Jones’ 6’6″ frame as well as his unique skillset makes him one of the most valuable players in the MAAC. His size allows him to guard big men, while his speed gives him the ability to defend smaller, quicker players. Jones also leads his team in rebounds and is second in blocked shots per game. On offense, Jones is third on the team in scoring, and can do so in a variety of ways. He shoots over 40% from distance, has an excellent mid-range game, and can score in the paint.
There really is no one player on Monmouth that can replicate all that Jones does for the Hawks, but Monmouth’s depth will allow King Rice to use a variety of players to fill the void. The clear replacements on Monmouth’s roster are 6’8″ forwards Collin Stewart and Pierre Sarr. Stewart, who averages 8 points per game, can shoot the three, but lacks the strength to defend true power forwards. Sarr is one of the more athletic players on the team, but also would struggle in one-on-one matchups in the post. Monmouth could look to go big by playing reserve centers Zac Tillman or Diago Quinn alongside starter Chris Brady. However, neither of these players add much offensively, nor can they defend on the perimeter. The Hawks could also consider going small, as they did for some stretches last night, to force an up-and-down style of play. This may allow Monmouth to be explosive offensively, but could lead to foul trouble or easy buckets on defense. It will be up to Rice to mix-and-match in order to fill Jones’ production.
Overall, this injury could have a huge impact on the MAAC race. One team built to benefit from the loss of Jones would be Siena. Siena, who has size up front with forward Lavon Long and Brett Bisping, as well as center Javion Ogunyemi, could force Monmouth to go big and slow the game down. This style change would benefit the Saints. Jones was extremely effective against the Saints this season, scoring 21 points against them on January 18. Another team who could bother Monmouth with their size is potential quarterfinal foe Quinnipiac. The Bobcats struggle to score the ball, but have the size and defensive ability to make Monmouth play a slow game. Jones’ loss appears to be a tough blow for Monmouth, but they are still a strong team who will be tough to beat in March.