CINCINNATI -- Basketball season has been a work in progress for Xavier freshman Tyrique Jones.
The forward from Connecticut has provided spurts of energy through dramatic dunks and tough rebounds while starting in eight of the Musketeers' 30 games.
Jones has had two breakout performances along the way. He amassed a career-high 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting Feb. 4 at Creighton and scored 13 points at Marquette less than two weeks later.
Jones, who averages 4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 10.9 minutes, recently sat down to answer nine questions about hoops and life.
What has been the biggest adjustment in your freshman season of Xavier basketball?
TJ: The pace. Sometimes I get tired, because the pace is way quicker than high school. Connecticut high school to prep school high school basketball was different in picking up the pace, but from prep school to here is even more different.
Some of your best outings have been in the last month. Is the game slowing down?
TJ: Yeah, I feel like it's slowing down. Coming in as a freshman, guys on the team don't know what you're going to do yet. As the season has gone on, they've instilled confidence in me to keep playing and keep finishing. I think I'm starting to get under control with (free-throw shooting). I think if I keep working on it, I'll get better.
You're 6-foot-9. When did you have a major growth spurt?
TJ: I've always been tall, but I think I had a growth spurt in seventh grade, going into my eighth-grade year. I grew like five inches. And then from eighth-grade year to ninth grade, I grew another three inches. It was painful. A lot of growing pains. At that time I wasn't really playing basketball. I was more of a football player throughout elementary school and through my freshman year of high school.
What stood out about your football days?
TJ: I played for Windsor, a town in Connecticut, and there was a night game when there were too many kids that play for Windsor, so they had a maroon team and a gray team. We had to play each other. (The other team) threw the ball and I was playing defensive end, and for some reason I didn't rush the quarterback. I dropped back and caught the ball and returned it 94 yards for a touchdown. That was pretty special.
Your favorite food is Jamaican. What specifically?
TJ: My mother makes this dish for me every time I come home. It's rice and some meat -- to tell you the truth, I actually don't know what kind -- but every time I go home it's waiting there for me.
And you have Jamaican heritage?
TJ: My mother was born in Jamaica and all my cousins and aunts were born in Jamaica. My father's parents were from Jamaica but my father was born in the Bahamas. I've never been to the Bahamas, but I've been to Jamaica twice for funerals.
What's the best thing about your mom, Petronia Bailey?
TJ: I love my mom. I couldn't name just one thing. There's so much more. When she's at Xavier games, I hear her every time. When I'm at the free-throw line, she'll yell "88!" (The nickname given to Jones by his late father, Lester, in honor of his birth weight: 8 pounds, 8 ounces.) She came to all the games on the East Coast and she came to the Villanova game here.
What have you gained by going against senior RaShid Gaston in practice all season?
TJ: RaShid is like a big brother to me away from home. He just told me to give it my all every day, just keep working hard. He said he sees more in me than he saw in himself when he was a freshman. So if I just keep improving, it will be good.
TJ: I don't know why, I think because I've read it so much, but "The Great Gatsby." The tone, everything about it, I just love it. And I just like Gatsby.