Dale Jones has had a lot of the wrong kind of breaks in his college basketball career.
Broken wrists. Torn ACLs. Things like that.
In five years of college, he has been healthy enough to play less than half the time.
But maybe Jones got the sort of break he needs this week when he reportedly accepted an offer to transfer from Iowa to North Dakota for one last season at the college level.
The fact that Jones is leaving the Hawkeyes to play elsewhere is no big surprise. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion even before last season that he would take advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule, which allows players who have earned their degrees to play at another school without sitting out a season.
But both Jones and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery hedged any time they were asked about it. Late in the season, McCaffery would only say it was a “possibility’’ that Jones would leave.
“That would be his call,’’ McCaffery said. “He will graduate. If you graduate, you have the opportunity to go wherever you want. Does he want to come back? Does he want to go somewhere else? Does he want to play professionally? Once you graduate, it's your call. I'm happy he's going to graduate. He's done everything we've asked him to do.’’
In an interview at the end of the regular season, Jones said there still was some chance he could return to Iowa, but he said he definitely planned to play basketball somewhere next season.
“It’s not going to stop here whether I stay here or go somewhere else,’’ he said. “I’m probably going to ride it out until the doctors say I can’t play anymore.’’
In truth, the Hawkeyes needed Jones’ scholarship. They are losing only one other senior, Peter Jok, and they signed two high school players to letters of intent in November plus have a third commitment from McCaffery’s son, Connor, who could come in as a walk-on and may try to also play baseball at Iowa. They needed someone off last season’s roster to transfer in order to conform to the NCAA’s scholarship limitations.
Through no fault of his own, Jones never really made much of a contribution on the court during his two years at Iowa.
The former Waterloo West star missed his entire second season at Tyler (Texas) Community College after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right knee. After transferring to Iowa in 2015, he played in only six games before injuring the same knee again and undergoing another surgery. Jones indicated at the time that doctors felt the initial surgery was done incorrectly.
He still was dealing with some swelling and lingering soreness when last season began. At about the time it appeared he might be ready to contribute, he broke his right wrist. He ended up playing a total of only 15 minutes in five games.
He went through Senior Day ceremonies prior to a March 5 game with Penn State and made his only career start that day, scoring his only three points of the season.
Because of all the missed playing time, Jones was granted a rare sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.
North Dakota could be a good place for him to use it. The Fighting Hawks, coached by former Rock Island High School and University of Northern Iowa star Brian Jones (no relation), return three starters and the top three reserves from a team that won the Big Sky regular season and tournament championships, and earned the first NCAA tournament berth in school history.
If they have one glaring need, it’s perimeter shooting. The two departing starters, Quinton Hooker and Corey Baldwin, accounted for 158 of the team’s 228 3-point field goals last season.
The Hawks may get some help in that area from three Quad-Cities kids on the roster — former North Scott stars Cortez Seales and Marlon Stewart and incoming freshman Tray Buchanan of United Township — but they definitely could get a 3-point boost from Jones.
The 6-foot-7 forward may or may not have regained the athleticism he showed during his third season at Tyler, when he averaged 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, but by all accounts he still can shoot. He made 45 percent of his 3-point attempts that season.
If nothing else, he should provide some veteran savvy. He will turn 24 in December and will be among the oldest players in NCAA Division I next season.