Fresno State coach Rodney Terry closed out the spring signing period strongly with a pair of JC recruits, adding 6-foot-9 forward Torren Jones and 6-2 point guard Lionel Ellison III on Thursday.
The pair round out a recruiting class that fills needs and also upgrades the talent level for the Mountain West program.
Jones, who played one season at Missouri and was rated as a Top 100 player out of high school, is expected to be a high-impact player for the Bulldogs, providing a physical presence around the basket that they have lacked.
“We got a little better today, we did,” Terry said. “Torren is a rugged, physical player. He plays with a good motor. He’s a guy that coming out of high school was always on everybody’s radar. He’s a good player. He gets after it on the floor. He is a big body, has a chance to give us a physical presence.”
As a sophomore at Midland (Texas) College, Jones averaged 18.3 points and 10.6 rebounds while playing 29.1 minutes per game. In his one season at Missouri — he was dismissed for an undisclosed violation of team rules — he led the team in rebounds per 40 minutes and had a career-high 11, including seven at the offensive end, in a road win at Auburn.
The Bulldogs last season ranked ninth of 11 in the Mountain West in rebounding margin at minus-3.2, which is only part of the fit for Jones.
“I like the style of play. I like the coaching staff. It’s in a good area, in a good conference,” Jones said. “I have a cousin who goes there and some of my club ball team (Paul Watson and Jaron Hopkins, who is transferring in from Colorado) goes there as well, so I have that chemistry with them.
“Coach believes in me and the staff believes in me, I have my boys with me, so I think we’re going to make a pretty good run at this thing.”
Jones said the support was an important factor, after he was dismissed at Missouri.
“It was definitely humbling,” he said. “I just had to make sure I kept strong through the whole process and I didn’t get too down on myself and make sure I focus on getting back to this level, to the D-I level, and showing everybody that I had made a mistake and that I could bounce back from it. This is an opportunity for me now to revamp my image and make sure everyone sees me in a positive light.”
Ellison played at Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College.
At Fresno State, Jones joins a recruiting class that includes Ellison, Hopkins, forward Cullen Russo from New Mexico College, Washington transfer Jahmel Taylor and forward Nate Grimes from the Quality Education Academy in Winston Salem, N.C., who signed in November.
“Coach (Byron) Jones did a really good job on the JUCO circuit and Kenton (Paulino) did a real good job with Jaron,” Terry said.
“I think we got what we needed in terms of our recruiting class with two post guys that we were looking to try to sign, two older post guys. We got a really good guard for the future in Jaron coming in — he’s really talented. Lionel is going to be a really solid guy for us. And then Nate Grimes, he’s a good player. He’s going to be a young player, but he’s good. He has Mountain West Conference talent.’’
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada