Mr. Jones

Byron Beers | Daily Press

Tahlequah senior guard Jaxon Jones is averaging 16.9 points, shooting 49.2 percent overall and 48.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc. Jones has scored 1,061 points over his career.

Jaxon Jones has reached a pinnacle of his prep career and he’s done so with his father, Tahlequah head coach Duane Jones, nearby to enjoy the journey.

Jaxon recently became just the third player over the last decade at Tahlequah to reach 1,000 career points as a senior for the Tigers.

His shining moment came on a pull-up jumper to start the second half against Coweta on Jan. 7. The Tigers, currently ranked 10th in Class 5A, went on defeat Coweta, 65-53.

“It was pretty cool,” Jaxon said. “I know my mom (Tanya) probably wanted it more than I did and she was really excited. My teammates have been pushing me to score a lot and they knew I was close and wanted me to get it.”

From a 5-foot-7 spot-up shooter as freshman to a 6-foot-2 do-it-all guard in his final season, Jaxon has made a huge climb and has blossomed into a lethal scorer from anywhere on the floor.

“It’s really been special to have your own kid play for you,” Duane said. “It’s been exciting to watch him grow and develop as a player, and see the hard work that he puts in and to see the fruits of his labor when it comes down to it.”

Jaxon, currently sitting at 1,061 points, has scored 30 points or more four times and 20 points or more 22 times in his three-plus years. He poured in a season-high 33 points against Grove on Dec. 6 and had 31 against Moore a week later in the Cherokee Nation Businesses Tahlequah Invitational. His career-high of 34 points came as a sophomore against Tulsa Green Country.

At times he’s unstoppable.

He put on a scoring clinic against Collinsville on Tuesday at the Tahlequah Multipurpose Activity Center and nearly brought Tahlequah all the way back from a 25-point deficit in the fourth quarter. He scored 18 of his 24 points over the final eight minutes, including 13 during a 14-2 run in a span of three minutes.

“I became more aggressive and they started laying back a little more with a big lead,” Jaxon said. “I started attacking a lot more, and after I hit my first 3 my teammates just kept getting me the ball and I was hitting my shots.”

Jaxon, who is averaging 2.6 3-pointers per contest and shooting 48.3 percent from long distance, made six of his eight attempts against the Cardinals and finished with 24 points.

The Northeastern State verbal commit, who is averaging 16.9 points and shooting 49.2 percent overall from the floor, has had his dad as head coach since his sophomore season. Duane was a first-year assistant under previous head coach Rickey Bruner as a freshman.

“Having my dad as a head coach has been a real blessing because we can always come up here and shoot and we have a really good relationship,” Jaxon said. “This has helped our relationship as a father and a son to a player and a coach because I’m with him every day. He’s the reason I’m going to go play college basketball, and I want to be a coach because of him.”

“Jaxon has been in the gym since he was old enough to dribble a basketball,” Duane said. “He’s been sitting on my bench since he was four or five years old. In grade school he would come over every day and be in the gym to watch us practice. As he got old enough he would jump into our shooting drills with our high school guys and play HORSE with the guys after practice.”

Another benefit for Jaxon has been Tigers’ assistant Matt Qualls, who was a legendary player at Tahlequah and ended his career as the school’s all-time leading scorer at 2,432 points. Qualls also player under his father, Leroy Qualls, who was inducted into the Tahlequah Athletics Hall of Fame in February 2019.

“I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the game and I kind of see a mirroring image of that with Jaxon,” Qualls said. “I know he’s put in a lot of work and time over the years and my dad was my coach as well, so there’s a lot of good times that come with that and there’s a lot of tough times as well. Jaxon’s done that process and I think he’s a really good job of just buying in and trusting in himself to make plays when we need him.”

Tahlequah is currently 7-4 overall and 4-1 in the Metro Lakes Conference. The Tigers will travel to play Claremore on Friday in the first of six consecutive games away from home.

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