'He's doing everything better': Why Xavier's Colby Jones is on the road to becoming a star

Adam Baum
Cincinnati Enquirer

Surprised is the wrong word.

CJ Jones isn't surprised because he spent his formative years playing basketball with and against his younger brother, Colby.

CJ played college basketball at Arkansas and Middle Tennessee State. Now he's in his first season playing professional basketball in the Netherlands, so he has to stay up late, half a world away, to watch his younger brother play for Xavier men's basketball.

"He's a smart kid, been smart since he was a baby, so I'm not surprised at all," CJ told The Enquirer. "I know he can play in any system, anywhere and he's gonna fit right in."

Xavier Musketeers guard Colby Jones (3) shoots for three in the second half of the NCAA basketball game between the Xavier Musketeers and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Xavier defeated the 19-ranked Buckeyes, 71-65.

And Colby has fit right in at Xavier. The 6-foot-6 sophomore has emerged as one of the Musketeers' best players, and to get to where he is today, it's worth a look at where he started in Birmingham, Alabama, playing against his older brother.

"We got the same dad, different moms, so when he was first born ... I'd go over to their house every weekend, almost every day it seemed like, and once he got older like around 6 or 7 that's when he wanted to start playing me one-on-one or shooting contests. He always was competitive but he used to play football too, and I thought he was just gonna stick with football because, man, he was almost better at football than basketball. He played quarterback and he was great. But basketball's always been his first love."

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CJ and Colby's dad, Chad, played basketball at the University of Alabama Birmingham, so growing up, they'd follow their dad to the gym.

"We'd just workout with my dad all day and then we'd play pickup with whoever's at the gym," said Colby. "But, yeah, we definitely had some one-on-one games. It got heated a couple of times ... just that brotherly love, going at each other."

CJ didn't take all the credit for his brother's toughness.

"He played football so I think he got that toughness from there and he had another older brother named Trent, we did use to kind of rough him up when we were little so I guess it's both worlds, from his brothers and playing football," said CJ.

Watching his brother now, CJ sees all those little things that developed when they were boys. The only difference is now he's watching Colby do it at the highest level of college basketball.

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"His IQ and just how tough he plays. He don't let nobody speed him up," CJ said. "But his IQ is the main thing that sticks out to me. And he can guard one through four."

Basketball intelligence is easy to see when it's present, but it's hard to develop. Colby has a knack for being in the right spots. He can pass. He can score (13.0 ppg). He can defend. And he leads Xavier in rebounding (9.5). Those instincts that allow him to impact the game in a number of ways were cultivated over time, and it's something Colby credited to his coaches.

"I think really it came from my youth basketball coach," Colby said. "Those practices were intense but he really instilled fundamentals to us. I feel like that's still beat into my brain from then ... just having great coaches my whole life. I've had great coaches from middle school to high school and now here. I feel like that all plays a part in it."

At the end of last season, Colby met with Xavier head coach Travis Steele and they formulated a plan to build upon what he did as a freshman so that he could take a leap as a sophomore.

And what a leap it's been.

"You could see that he had a really good freshman year but there was just so much more there from a play-making standpoint, a scoring standpoint. I felt like if he could get stronger, and he has, he's worked really hard on his body with (strength coach Chase Campbell)," said Steele. "I'm not shocked at the jump he's made. He just kind of does everything, though. There's not one area where I could pinpoint, like, he's doing this so much better because he's doing everything better.

"He's such an intelligent kid. He puts things together and he cares. He's doing it in every area, every aspect, and we need him to."

It's hard for CJ to watch every game, but he stayed up late to see Xavier take down Ohio State last week.

"It's a blessing, especially when I watched the Ohio State game, I'm so glad he gets to play in atmospheres like that, just getting to show his talents off," said CJ. "Knowing where we came from, I'm so proud of him. It's amazing. He's just getting started, though."