Frank Jones goes up for the block for the BU Bobcats on Saturday night. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Frank Jones (6) made his Canada West debut for BU on the weekend. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
For Frank Jones, 604 days seemed like an eternity.
That’s the length of time there was between regular-season matches for the 22-year-old middle on the Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball team. Jones joined the Bobcats last season from the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference’s SAIT Trojans in Calgary but spent the year as a redshirt.
While it was hard at first for him to get used to only being able to practise with the team as it won its first Canada West championship and earned a bronze medal at nationals, it may have been a blessing in disguise.
"At first it was pretty hard, but I kind of figured out a way to take those negative thoughts towards me not playing and push the starting lineup every day at practice and try to work on my skill for a whole year, which was a really good experience," said the 6-foot-8, 215-pound middle, who’s in his fourth year of eligibility. "I believe I grew with great strides a lot on my mental game and being a positive team player. Skill-wise, I think my defence has gotten a lot better."
Although he sat out last year, there’s no doubt about Jones’ talent. Having Jones join the active roster forced Bobcats head coach Grant Wilson to find a way to get him into the starting lineup along with last year’s starting middles, Dan Boutwell and Brendan White. Wilson decided to move White to left side and start Jones at middle and it has paid early dividends.
In the Bobcats’ Canada West season-opening victories over the visiting Regina Cougars over the weekend, Jones had 13 kills — averaging 1.86 per set — as well as two aces and three blocks.
The lanky middle showed his smarts and power during the matches, but what really impressed Wilson is Jones’ serving ability.
"Right now, he’s probably our best server," Wilson said. "He puts a lot of pressure on the other team with his serve and he’s very solid at the net with his read blocking and ultimately he’s been a great team guy. Real positive, great communication and he’s leading by example every day in practice and in games … He stepped in and has done a great job so far and we expect that to continue."
While Jones never made an appearance on the court last year, he could be heard at every Bobcat match. Frequently when opposing teams were serving, Jones could be heard making a Chewbacca-like noise, which he still does sometimes during the women’s matches.
He’s even more vocal when he’s on the court as Jones can often be heard shouting "Now!" to his setter to time his attacks perfectly. Of course, setter Roy Ching doesn’t give the ball to Jones every time he calls for it, which may have an added benefit.
"I don’t know if it throws other teams off, but it certainly draws attention and that’s what we want from our attackers," Wilson said. "We want our attackers to draw attention and make it difficult for defences to read and he does a great job of that."
Despite having a team-high attack and serving percentage among Bobcat starters in their first two conference matches, Jones wasn’t too happy with his performance. He feels that he can improve in all aspects of his game and hopes to do so as the Canada West season rolls on.
Jones will do whatever it takes to make himself and the team better as the Bobcats, who are ranked fourth in the country, try to win their second straight Canada West championship and earn a spot at nationals.
"My expectations are to do the best I can every night for my team," said Jones, whose parents travelled from Calgary to watch him make his Bobcat debut on the weekend. "I’m trying to be a 100 per cent team player regardless of what my position is on the court and try to do it to a T. If that’s serving properly all the time or if that’s getting a block or getting a dig, everything. Those are my expectations to play my best for my team."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 29, 2013