If NAU guard Cameron Jones makes himself at home again Thursday at McKale Center, after he dropped 29 points on the Wildcats last season, Arizona fans may have to partially blame a familiar face.
Miles Simon, of all people, was Jones' personal trainer in the off-season.
The former Wildcat standout player and assistant coach, who has been forging careers in both broadcasting and personal training, tutored Jones and his cousin Landry Fields, a former Stanford forward, in Southern California.
"When he works me out, he has me be more aggressive," Jones said of Simon. "We worked on fundamentals and different kinds of shots."
While Simon's work helped Fields get drafted in the second round by the New York Knicks, Jones has assumed a more versatile role as a senior for the Lumberjacks.
"He's playing multiple positions for us this year," NAU coach Mike Adras said. "He starts at the three (small forward), quickly shifts to the two (shooting guard) and will play some point. … He just wants to win ballgames, and I appreciate that."
Simon's work helped increase the stock of Jones and Fields, whose mothers are twin sisters, and their production has likewise helped Simon's résumé. Fields is one of the big surprises of the 2010 NBA draft, averaging 10.6 points a game as a starter for the Knicks, while Jones is averaging 16.8 points and 3.1 assists for the Lumberjacks.
Simon discussed both players, and his dual careers, in an interview Tuesday:
On Jones: "The best thing about Cameron is his work ethic and his drive to get better. The big thing with him is ballhandling. His dream is to play at the next level, in the NBA or overseas, and he's mostly played off the ball at NAU. His ballhandling's been better, and for his size (6 feet 4 inches, 190 pounds), he's a pretty good finisher around the basket.
"Cam can shoot from good range, he's a good defender, and his toughness is a great attribute. Being able to get to the rim at his size is key. It's going to allow him to shoot more good shots."
On Fields' surprise production: "People underestimated him, underrated him, under-everythinged him. The Pac-10 was down, but he averaged 22 (points) and nine (rebounds) on a team that wasn't very good so he was the focal point of every team's scouting report.
"It doesn't surprise me because he's one of the hardest workers I've ever been around. We were in the gym three or four hours a day. He really put in the time. (NBA scouts) had big question marks about his ability to shoot the ball. But he went to a pre-draft workout in Minnesota and there were 40 or 50 prospects, and they had each guy shoot 50 three-pointers. Landry hit 42 of them, the most of anybody. He's proved naysayers wrong.
"New York is a great fit for him. (Knicks coach Mike) D'Antoni's system is perfect for him because he gets to run and shoot. He's not a guy who needs to have plays run for him to do well. He can score from offensive rebounds, cutting to the basket; he's a very cerebral player. To me, the best stat on Landry is that he leads all guards in rebounding (7.6 per game). Not just rookies. Everyone. He anticipates - you have to have a good feel - and it's also energy and effort."
On his connection to Fields: "It goes back to when we recruited him (for Arizona). He was in Chase's (Budinger) class, and when we thought Chase might be a one-and-done we wanted a backup plan. He was a spring signee, but he had to get his verbal score up to get into Stanford. So it was us and Stanford. But once he got his score, he said he'd worked so hard he couldn't pass up the Stanford degree, and we understood. But we kept up the relationship. … This summer, when he came home, he said, 'Can Cameron come work out with us?' and I said, 'Of course.'"
On his dual careers: I won't get to do any Arizona games this season. I'm super busy, going to do LMU-Florida State (Saturday on ESPNU), going to the Cancun tournament, and in January and February I have a full slate. It's worked out pretty well. (Broadcasting) gives me the flexibility and freedom to work clinics and do personal training in the off-season. … I could (return to college coaching), but it's whatever's going to be best for my future and my family."
On StarNet: Follow the Cats on reporter Bruce Pascoe's blog at go.azstarnet.com/pascoe
• Who: NAU at Arizona
• When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
• TV: FSAZ, Channel 58
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM