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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Jones hits Pioneer trail to Northark

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Sports Editor

The pipeline from Viola High School to North Arkansas College in Harrison just keeps expanding.

Viola's 6-9 All-Conference post player, Dustin "Big Country" Jones, became the fourth Longhorn the past couple of years to sign on to play basketball at Northark in a ceremony held April 20 at the Viola High School library.

Jones joins former Longhorn standouts Issac Middlebrooks, Kelsy Pickering and Justin Batterton as Viola players who have signed letters of intent to play hoops at Northark the past four years.

According to North Arkansas Head Coach Jerry Thomason, the choice to recruit players from the school in Fulton County is an easy one. "We've had good success with players from Viola," he said. "Viola has certainly made their presence felt on the state level, with their success in the past few state tournaments. We want kids from winning traditions, and Viola provides that."

A big part of Viola's good fortunes the past three seasons, Jones has developed from a good big man to a dominating force in the paint.

While helping the Horns rack up 84 wins the past three years, "Big Country" routinely faced double-teams as opponents made sure to know where big number 55 in orange-and-black was at all times.

One dream of all high school hoopsters is a chance at a state title, and Jones and company took full advantage of their shot in the 2002 season.

The Longhorns were crowned Class A state champions in Jones' sophomore year with a win over the Delight Bulldogs in Pine Bluff.

Last year's Longhorn team reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament before being dealt a setback against eventual state champion Weiner.

After winning the regional tournament in Rural Special this year, the Longhorns were knocked out of the state tournament in Lynn by Fort Smith Christian.

Jones was named MVP of the regional tournament this season, and is currently first-alternate for the East team at this summer's All-Star High School Basketball Game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

Coming off a 19-8 season, Thomason is expecting the All-Conference Jones to provide re-enforcement in the paint for his Pioneer squad next year.

"We're looking forward to getting Dustin up here," he said. "He'll definitely help give us good depth at the center spot. If he works on his speed and agility, he'll be able to compete for a spot right from the start."

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