CLINTON — It was an offer Jalen Jones couldn’t refuse.
Jones, a 6-foot-5 senior at Clinton High School, informed the coaching staff at Nebraska-Omaha on Sunday that he would play college basketball for the fledgling NCAA Division I program.
“It’s a good deal; I’m really happy for Jalen,” Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said Sunday night.
“I really liked the coaching staff, and I know one of the players,” Jones said. Derrin Hansen has guided the program for nearly a decade, and West Branch’s Rylan Murray, one of Jones’ former AAU teammates, is a freshman at UNO.
Jones earned second-team all-state honors from the Iowa Newspaper Association last season after leading the River Kings in scoring for the second year in a row. He averaged 19.0 points and 7.1 rebounds a game, shot 45 percent from the field and led the team with 76 assists. He made 48 of 147 3-point attempts (32.7 percent), shot 70.8 percent from the free-throw line and blocked 26 shots in 22 games.
He is joining a team that went 11-20 last year in its second season at the Division I level. A longtime member of NCAA Division II, the school is in a transition phase while reclassifying and will be eligible to participate in the Division I NCAA Tournament in 2015-16.
“It’s really exciting,” Jones said of joining the burgeoning program. “It should be cool.”
Jones, who said he probably would sign a letter-of-intent with UNO during the early signing period in November, said making the decision “was definitely a huge relief going into his senior season.”
While another big year might have brought offers from some of the larger schools that have scouted him, Jones said he didn’t want to risk an injury or anything else that might deflate his value.
“I’m not sure if I’m selling myself short, but I don’t want to pass up a full ride, a free education,” he said.