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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Thursday, July 22, 2010

By Sammy Batten

Brawny hoops star plots path to Ficklen

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

Michael Jones was focused on a basketball career until a former assistant coach for the East Carolina hoops team suggested he give football a try.

George Stackhouse is the head boys' basketball coach at Fayetteville's Westover High School. Between 2002 and 2005, Stackhouse was an assistant coach for the Pirates under head coach Bill Herrion.

Stackhouse first encountered the then 6-foot-4, 290-pound Jones as a freshman at Westover and was happy to add him to the Wolverines basketball roster. But in the back of his mind, Stackhouse knew, at the very least, that Jones looked like a football player.

“I thought he was a football player when I first saw him,'' Stackhouse said. “He wore a size 18 shoe. I walked up to him and said, 'Are you a football player?' Well, he's got a real light voice. He said, 'No coach. I'm a basketball player.' I said, 'Good, I'm a basketball coach and we'll get along just fine.'''

Jones started his freshman year on Westover's junior varsity before being promoted to the varsity midway through the season. Jones' physical play in basketball convinced Stackhouse that his eyes hadn't deceived him.

“He wasn't afraid to mix it up and he wouldn't back down, even against older players,'' Stackhouse said. “I told our football coach at the time, Milton Butts, 'Hey Milt. Big Mike is aggressive.' So I told Milt I'd talk to Mike and see if he would play. Sure enough, he went out.''

The early days were rocky ones for Jones, who thought about quitting after his first football practice. But instead he stuck with it, and two years later has improved to the point that he earned a scholarship offer from East Carolina.

Jones gave his oral commitment in early July to become the ninth member of ECU's recruiting Class of 2011.

Playing college football wasn't on Jones' mind when he reported to his first football practice at Westover as a sophomore.

“There was this senior, Adam Jones, who tackled me so hard I didn't want to play anymore,'' Jones said. “My Mom made me go back out there.''

As the days went by, things got better.

“It was about two days in when I got tired of getting hit,'' Jones said. “I started hitting back.''

Jones would earn a starting job at both offensive tackle and defensive end as a sophomore. He emerged as one of Westover's top players as a junior, making 68 tackles on defense and paving the way for 2,700 yards of rushing offense.

“He is a great run blocker,'' new Westover head coach John McDonald said. “He really comes off the ball, and he comes at you with a mean intention.''

Jones said East Carolina's previous coaching staff began recruiting him as a junior. But it was the new staff under head coach Ruffin McNeill that sealed the deal.

“I made two trips up there (to Greenville) after my junior season, and after the second one they offered me,'' Jones said. “The coaches were just so nice to me, and the school is close to my Mom. It really just felt like home.''

Despite his success in football, Jones is still a basketball fan and player at heart.

“He still loves basketball better because he's played it longer,'' Stackhouse said. “He watches basketball all the time. But he gets that his future is football, and the better he gets at it, the better he likes it.''

Stackhouse expects Jones to again play a major role for Westover's basketball team, which last year finished with a 21-6 record. Jones earned all-conference and All-Cape Fear region honors from The Fayetteville Observer after averaging 10.8 points and 6.9 rebounds.

Jones isn't planning on trying out for basketball at ECU, but Stackhouse believes his big man could help new Pirate head coach Jeff Lebo on the hardwood, too.

“We went to the ECU basketball camp this summer and their assistant coaches were impressed with him,'' Stackhouse said. “He's probably one of the most dominant inside players in the East. He's got great hands.''

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08/06/2010 01:56:07 AM


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