Nov. 10, 2010
Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl announced Wednesday that Memphis native Chris Jones and Conyers, Ga., native Kevin Ware have signed with the University of Tennessee and will play basketball for the Volunteers beginning with the 2011-12 season. Both signees plan to enroll at Tennessee next summer.
"We got two great guards who are both great-character kids," Pearl said. "They stuck with their family, and I won't forget that."
A 5-foot-10, 165-pound point guard, Jones led Memphis Melrose High School to the state championship last season before transferring to Oak Ridge (N.C.) Military Academy.
An explosive scorer with incredible speed and quickness, Jones is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 39 overall prospect in the class of 2011. In addition, Rivals.com, ESPNU and Scout.com all rank Jones as the nation's 10th-best point guard.
"Chris was the player of the year in the state, and he won a state championship at Melrose," Pearl said. "He's a floor general that will remind people of (former South Carolina star) Devan Downey. But he still has his own style and a toughness you just can't teach."
Jones made the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Class AAA All-State team as a junior last year after averaging 20.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game while guiding Melrose to a Class AAA state title and a No. 15 finish in the ESPN Rise Fab 50 national rankings.
He was named MVP of the TSSAA Region 8-AAA tournament after dropping 42 points on White Station in the regional title game. Melrose met White Station once again in the state championship game, with Jones recording 35 points in the title-winning effort. That helped land him on the 2010 MaxPreps All-America third team.
"I chose Tennessee because me and coach Pearl have a bond that no one could break," Jones said. "I'm a loyal person, and nothing was going to stop me from becoming a Vol.
"I hope to come in and be a leader for the team and hopefully help lead UT to a national championship."
Jones burst onto the national recruiting scene with a breakout showing at the Bob Gibbons' Tournament of Champions event in Chapel Hill, N.C. in May of 2009. This past summer, Jones starred at the NBA Players Association Top 100 camp in Charlottesville, Va.
Jones has played summer ball with the Memphis Magic and the Memphis Stallions AAU programs.
A 6-foot-4, 170-pound shooting guard, Ware is a senior at Rockdale County High School, where he is coached by All Williams. Rockdale County enters this season ranked second in the state of Georgia.
Ware is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 56 overall prospect in the class of 2011 and the nation's 14th-best shooting guard prospect. He also appears on the ESPNU Top-100 chart and is rated by Scout.com as the nation's 25th-best shooting guard.
"Kevin is quick, athletic and long," Pearl said. "It's really tough to keep him out of the lane. He's as athletic a guard as we've had here."
As a junior last year at RCHS, Ware averaged 19 points, six assists, seven rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. He earned Class AAAA second-team All-State honors from both the Georgia Sports Writers Association and the Atlanta Journal Constitution while leading the Bulldogs to the top ranking in the state, a Region 8 championship, the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs and a 29-2 overall record. He averaged 16 points, 8.5 assists and eight rebounds as a sophomore en route to district player of the year honors.
"I'm feeling great," Ware said. "It's a great day to become a Vol. I have a great relationship with all the coaches and players, and Tennessee has a great system.
"I think my game really fits into that system. It allows me to show the strong points my game, and I know the coaches will help me improve on my weaknesses. I just feel great. I couldn't have chosen to go anywhere else."
Ware's summer circuit activity was limited this past summer after he suffered a broken hand in July. However, he was still named to the USA roster for the 2010 adidas Nations global experience event in Chicago. Prior to that, he enjoyed a strong showing at the USA Basketball 16U mini-camp last October.
Tennessee's current roster already includes four other Georgia natives in junior guard Cameron Tatum (Lithonia), sophomore forward Kenny Hall (Stone Mountain) and freshmen guards Trae Golden (Powder Springs) and Jordan McRae (Midway).
Ware, Golden and McRae have previously played together with the Atlanta Celtics AAU program.