Central Mountain gains star in Jones

MILL HALL — A gifted athlete like Collin Jones turns heads in whichever sport he’s playing.

Jones was a member of the Central Mountain boys soccer team, but was a breakout star for the basketball program a season ago. He averaged 18 points and seven rebounds per game, which earned him a HAC all-star selection. His skill set was refined, but he admitted there was room for growth in athleticism.

Entering the 2018 season, Jones took a different approach to his senior year. He wrestled with emotions and concluded his talents were underutilized on the soccer field. After much internal debate, he decided to switch football — marking his first appearance on the gridiron since the eighth grade.

“I just felt (with football) I’d get more physically fit for the basketball season with lifting, and a lot more running,” Jones said. “People who I know that were playing football were talking about how they lift all the time, and that lifting and football will make them a better athlete no matter what sport they’re playing.”

After a restless summer where he dedicated countless hours to bulking up in the weight room and participating in strenuous two-a-days, the season opener against Williamsport approached. And when his name was called on Friday, Jones delivered.

Jones flew past Williamsport’s secondary in the first quarter and caught a dart from quarterback Zane Probst for a 73-yard score.

“It was exciting,” Jones said of his first touchdown. “I felt like I was playing the sport that I should be playing. It was different, but pretty exciting.”

He ended the night with 165 receiving yards and three touchdowns. His three scores is more than any CM receiver has totaled in a season over the past three years.

But even with the prolific numbers, he’s his own biggest critic.

“I’d say it was pretty good, but obviously there’s room for improvement basically anywhere,” Jones said of his season opener.

Jones said as the season progresses, he expects to draw double teams from opposing defenses. This could force a dip in his offensive production, and prevent him from eclipsing the 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns threshold he set for himself in the offseason. He’s now hopeful the coaching staff will create opportunities for him to play on defense.

“‘I’d like to play probably safety,” Jones said. “I want to try and start looking at different positions to play to try and make sure that I am as lethal as possible.”

Central Mountain coach Jim Renninger saw potential in Jones as he was bullying defenders on the basketball court last season. Renninger’s been recruiting Jones to play football for years now, and praised his performance against Williamsport.

“Collin made some plays,” Renninger said. “He’s real big, he’s real fast and he’s strong. Hopefully he’ll continue to produce that way.”

Collin is optimistic his impressive debut will continue throughout the season. He’s striving for excellence, and with the similarities between the two sports, he’s anxious to see how a season devoted to football aids him in maturing as a basketball player.

“Stuff that you do for football will sometimes show up on the basketball court,” Jones said. “Like with flipping your hips to run a route, or running and stopping. It all transforms into one big thing to help you become a better athlete.”

Jones is being scouted by a few Division II and Division III schools for basketball. But if presented the opportunity, he wouldn’t rule out a dual-athlete career at the collegiate level.

“If I could play football or basketball at the same college, I’d like to,” Jones said. “But if I had to pick one or the other, it’d most likely be basketball.”