Learie Jones leads UNC JV basketball to victory

Massanutten Military Academy, which boasts a nationally recognized JROTC program and refers to itself as the best military school in the nation, is also known as a basketball school.

MMA’s postgraduate basketball program provides an opportunity for players to continue to play basketball after graduating from high school and potentially go on to play at a Division I level.

But in the North Carolina junior varsity basketball team’s 98-88 victory against MMA — a team with five players that will play Division I college basketball next season — the best player on the floor was not a Colonel.

It was a Tar Heel — Learie Jones.

Coming off a disappointing game Saturday against Davidson County Community College, the junior forward willed UNC to the victory, matching his career-high with 26 points. He also added seven rebounds.

“When I don’t play well, I feel like I’m letting the team down,” Jones said. “I was less than happy with our two-point loss last game … So I really wanted to come out this game and help get the team a win.”

Finding comfort in UNC’s half-court offense, Jones got off to a hot start early in the game by connecting on his first three shots en route to a 16-point first-half performance.

Jones also acted as a vocal leader for the Tar Heels even when he found himself sitting on the bench.

“He’s our emotional leader and energizer,” coach C.B. McGrath said. “A lot of times he brings it. Tonight he played great. He hit shots early, which really got everybody going.”

Facing a two-point deficit in the second half, Jones tied the game with an emphatic fast-break dunk.

“I’ve been trying to get another dunk for games now,” Jones said. “My friends always come and I tell them if I get a dunk I’m going to do something nuts.

“I always like getting a dunk so then I can yell at my bench, which I know gets them fired up. It’s a good thing for the team.”

Jones’ dunk seemingly lit a fire under the Tar Heels. Despite tying the game multiple times in the waning minutes of the second half, MMA was never able to match UNC’s energy and take the lead.

For sophomore forward Kyle Currie, who contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, Wednesday night’s victory was the best he’s experienced as a member of the team. That was due in large part to Jones’ contributions.

“Last Saturday was kind of disappointing because I feel that we were definitely a better team but let it get away from us,” Currie said.

“Tonight, people just fed off of Learie’s energy — it was contagious.”

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