Casey Jones fights gravity.
The natural force always wins when the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga guard is sent back to the ground by nature.
But Jones usually defeats his defenders when he is in the air.
"I'm very proud of him," fellow Mocs sophomore and Louisiana native Gee McGhee said. "I knew he had it in him, but it didn't come out last year. He's come a long way."
Jones is one of many reasons that the Mocs (12-8, 6-0) are leading the Southern Conference more than one-third of the way through a 16-game league season.
Only UTC senior Zaccheus Mason has made a greater improvement from last season to this year. Mason is a contender for SoCon player of the year.
Jones is a contender to be on the All-SoCon team because he has averaged 11.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and more than a block per games.
"He can elevate in the lane, which makes him a lot bigger," UTC coach Will Wade said. "Casey is able to sky over people who are bigger."
Wade expected to see somebody bigger -- at least taller -- than Jones when he made his first trip to visit returning players a few days after getting the head-coach position at UTC.
The coach told a story of driving with assistant coach Casey Long to Louisiana, where he expected to meet McGhee and Jones -- who had been promoted as a 6-foot-6 player.
"We pulled up at his house after his brother's graduation and six guys got out of a car," Wade said. "Then I looked at Coach Long and said, 'I don't see a 6-6 cat in this car. Then Coach Long pointed him out to me."
Jones is listed in the media guide at 6-foot-5. He's listed in the official SoCon stats at No. 22 in scoring, No.9 in rebounding at 6.1 per game and No. 2 in field-goal percentage at .585.
"I knew I as going to like him when I met him," Wade said. "He was roofing in Louisiana in the summer. That's the type of stuff I like. That's a guy who's not afraid to toll up his sleeves and get to work."
That offseason work wasn't fun. Daytime temperatures routinely hit 90 degrees. Add the bounce-back from black shingles and it could get up to 130, maybe 140 degrees where Jones worked.
"It's Dad's roofing company, but he can do it all like electrical or plumbing," Jones said. "My major is engineering, so I like construction and all that stuff."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at wtiwtter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...