NORFOLK (WAVY) – Immediately following his team’s disheartening 64-63 loss to Marshall in the quarterfinal round of the Conference USA Tournament, Jeff Jones went straight into offseason mode. The head coach at Old Dominion turned his attention toward recruiting and building toward next season. Thing is, he didn’t plan focusing on those things so soon.
“I don’t think we anticipated losing the way we did to Marshall,” said Jones at the team’s annual fundraiser, the Big Blue Barbecue, on Thursday night.
The Monarchs (19-12, 12-6 Conference USA) certainly didn’t seem like they were headed for an early exit, having ended the regular season winning five of their last six games. “After we got off the bus (following the loss), we just realized that we just got to do better next year,” said Ahmad Caver, who will be a junior next season.
A little more than a month has passed since that dreary drive back to Norfolk, and there have been no shortage of off-season storylines for Jones. Players have transferred in, one player has transferred out, another initially announced he was transferring, then changed his mind, and a star player has been booted from the team.
Jones added a couple of ACC-caliber players to his roster with the addition of Justice Kithcart (dismissed from Pittsburgh) and Greg McClinton (Wake Forest). McClinton made a few headlines and more than a few social media feeds by draining a 80-foot heave as the halftime buzzer sounded against Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament. McClinton is eligible to play immediately next season.
Walk-on freshman Travis Fields from Portsmouth (I.C. Norcom High School) decided to transfer, but junior Randy Haynes, who announced his intention to leave the program, instead changed his mind after a heart-to-heart with Jones.
“The big thing that I think I needed to hear with Randy is that he’s all in,” said Jones, who elaborated how things “just didn’t work out” with regards to Haynes’ playing time. Haynes only averaged 3.1 points in 11 minutes a game, but showed considerable athleticism, and Jones believes with hard work, Haynes can blossom his senior season.
Caver was named the team’s Most Valuable Player, after leading the team in minutes played (35.3), points (13) and assists (4.8) per game.
“I don’t know that we can lean on him any more than we did last year,” said Jones.
Like every other player, Caver’s main objective will be making the NCAA Tournament next season. In the meantime, a very interesting off-season rolls on.