Deon Jones made his return to Monmouth lineup Sunday, coming back from broken hand after just 17 days and five games. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)
As public address announcer Scott Noel introduced the starting lineups for Monmouth and Fairfield Sunday afternoon, a familiar name was mentioned among the quintet for the regular season champions, one whose inclusion came as somewhat of a surprise.
Deon Jones, who had been out since suffering a broken hand in the Hawks' win over Manhattan on February 15, made his return just 17 days removed from undergoing surgery to repair a bone that had been broken in two places.
"I'm so happy for Deon Jones and his family, that he's able to play again," head coach King Rice said of his senior forward, who contributed nine points, seven rebounds and three assists to Monmouth's 76-63 win over Fairfield in the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament Sunday. "For him, of course it makes our team better, but for him, what he's done and meant to Monmouth University, to not be out there at the end of his senior year was hard to take. It's a credit to him and our doctors, and Vanessa Sweeney, our trainer, that he kept his head in the right place. I am truly happy for Deon, his mom and dad, his brother, Jeff, and the Jones family, that he gets to finish his senior year on his feet."
When Jones initially went down, speculation was that he would not be ready until Monmouth began play in either the NCAA Tournament or NIT, with the conference tournament ruled out of the realm of possibility until earlier this week, when his prognosis improved.
"Deon practiced Thursday," Rice revealed. "I was told he would play in the tournament, we didn't know when. I thought he was going to be able to play today as long as he didn't have any setbacks. I told the team this morning he was going to start, because I think; especially a senior missing time, he's been here with us, he knows what we want, he's getting back in there as soon as he's available."
"All I wanted to do was play with my brothers," a beaming Jones proclaimed, "and being out for those games was really tough, especially being a senior. Just being back out there, it felt great."