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Point guard Jaylen Jones chooses Tennessee State basketball

Point guard Jaylen Jones chooses Tennessee State basketball
East Nashville point guard Jaylen Jones committed to nearby Tennessee State, hoping to inspire others to follow his path to HBCUs. (Credit: Stephanie Amador/The Tennessean/USA TODAY NETWORK)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BVM) – The movement of top-tier high school athletes from the traditional top flight schools to historically black colleges and universities has steadily increased over the past few years. Some notable names who have done so in recent years include Class of 2022 No. 1 football recruit Travis Hunter going to Jackson State and Class of 2020 five-star basketball recruit Makur Maker, among others. Add East Nashville Magnet High School point guard Jaylen Jones to that ever growing list.

On June 7, Jones announced his commitment to HBCU Tennessee State, keeping one of the state’s best players home in Nashville. Jones chose the Tigers over a number of other offers including LSU, Ole Miss, Radford, Tennessee Tech and Wake Forest.

“I’m feeling great and really excited about me and my family’s decision,” Jones said. “I think it’s about just being comfortable and making sure you are choosing the right decision. Coach [Brian] Penny [Collins] has been by my side since the start of ninth grade and he stood out amongst the other colleges.”

Jones is among the top point guards in the entire country, ranked a consensus three-star prospect at No. 27 by 247Sports, No. 37 by ESPN and is considered the No. 4 player in the state. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound rising senior is the second Tennessee point guard to commit to an HBCU in as many months, joining Class of 2022’s Amarr Knox who committed to Alabama State in May.

“[My tweet] meant to try to get other potential five-star and four-star players to start to commit to HBCUs and I wanted to be the start, to lead others going to HBCUs,” Jones said. “It means a lot to go to an HBCU because it can be big in different ways, not just playing basketball, just being you and being around your own culture.”

Jaylen Jones East Nashville Magnet School Eagles basketball
Jones wants other top athletes to follow in his footsteps and commit to HBCUs like he did with Tennessee State. (Courtesy: Joan Mitchell)

Last season, Jones was a standout for the East Nashville Eagles, averaging 14.9 points, 8.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 steals. Jones’ strong play helped the team to a 29-3 record and a Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association Class 2A state championship, the first state title in program history. The junior point guard was named the tournament’s MVP after he averaged 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists throughout the week and recorded 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the championship game.

“It felt really good to be one of the leaders to lead my team to their first state championship,” Jones said. “A lot of people have doubted me since freshman year and just to be named MVP of the whole state that means a lot because a lot of people can’t say that. It’s very big for me and I love to put on for my family. It means a lot.”

At Tennessee State, Jones will look to help establish the Tigers as a threat in the Ohio Valley Conference. This past season, Tennessee State finished the year with a 14-18 record and an 8-10 OVC record. Over the four years under head coach “Penny” Collins, the Tigers have gone 45-73 overall with a 26-48 conference record. Despite their recent struggles, Jones is confident in Collins’ direction of the team.

“The future is like no other,” Jones said. “That’s why I felt the need to choose TSU because we’re going to be great. With me and Coach Penny together that’s like Batman and Robin. I think me and Coach Penny can do great things.”

For Jones, the decision was more than one for basketball. He wanted to be one of those players to inspire those behind him looking to come up to Division I basketball. Jones wants future players to take the HBCU route seriously and to give consideration to proud, black institutions.

“It’s a good move if you choose an HBCU from my perspective,” Jones said. “I feel like you have a lot of people behind you and into what you’re doing. There’s a lot of people behind me and in the same culture as me.”

Before he can start showing his talents for Tennessee State and helping to bring back that HBCU program, Jones will have one more season leading the Eagles. Having already secured one state championship, the rising senior would like nothing more than to leave the team with back-to-back titles, cementing his legacy at the school as an all-time great.

“It would complete my own milestone basically, that’s a big accomplishment,” Jones said. “I feel like I can do it, but if I really do it that would be crazy.”

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