Mar 18, 2022; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Jaden Walker (left), forward Robert Jones (12), and guard Tre Jackson (3) celebrate alongside the bench against the LSU Tigers in the second half during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
CHICAGO — Anybody who listens to the Corner 3 podcast knows Iowa State big man Robert Jones has become a bit of a cult hero for Scott Christopherson and myself during his first season as a Cyclone.
The 6-foot-9 Prior Lake, Minn. native has been playing good ball for the Cyclones over the last several weeks and told me on Wednesday the game has slowed down for him considerably in the last month or so.
“I feel like I’ve gotten more accustomed to high major basketball,” Jones said upon the team’s arrival in the Windy City for Friday night’s Sweet 16 match-up with Miami. “The physicality, the pace and just what’s expected of me every day on the court. I’ve just kind of gotten used to what I need to do and what is required of a post in the Big 12.”
That fact is evident when you look at Jones’ stat lines during the program’s last six games. The Denver transfer has connected on 15-of-21 shots during that stretch, which might not seem like much for a several-week stretch, but is a considerable improvement from where he was earlier in the year.
The best example of that growth came during the team’s win over Wisconsin last week in the round of 32 in Milwaukee. Jones caught the ball on the block and put together a really nice drop-step spin move around Wisconsin big man Steven Crowl for an easy lay-up.
Jones followed that move up by putting his hand parallel to the floor in the universal sign for “too little,” which is funny because the 7-foot Crowl has a considerable height advantage in the match-up.
Turns out, there was more to the story.
“My mom had told me before the game, she reminded me that during the game that my brother had played in his senior year, there was a tie-up between (Crowl) and my brother,” Jones said. “Steven Crowl had put my brother in a headlock. I just wanted to get my opportunity all game just to get the best of him.”
And he certainly did… on national television with a little good clean trash talk to follow it up. That’s what we call taking advantage of an opportunity.
Jones also played against Wisconsin forward Tyler Wahl during his high school days. Wahl played at Lakeville North, one of the better high school basketball programs in Minnesota on an annual basis, and had routinely beat Jones’ Prior Lake squads.
The only win Jones ever got over Lakeville North, and Wahl, was during the postseason his freshman year. That is until last Sunday night in Milwaukee.
“It just goes to show, I guess,” Jones said. “When it matters, I get the best of Tyler Wahl.”