Star pitcher chooses to come to UVa - The Daily Progress: Sports

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Star pitcher chooses to come to UVa

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Posted: Monday, May 13, 2013 8:59 pm | Updated: 10:28 am, Tue May 14, 2013.

Connor Jones went to the Virginia bookstore on Saturday to load the family up with gear. Later, he caught the Cavaliers mashing their way to a 17-8 rout of Duke before 4,040 at Davenport Field.

It was a gorgeous weekend in Charlottesville and Jones was very much a part of it.

It’s like he was getting a glimpse into his future or something.

On Tuesday, Jones, a star senior pitcher for Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, told UVa coach Brian O’Connor he would honor his commitment to play for the Wahoos and not immediately begin a professional career. Thursday, he informed pro scouts. Friday, he was in a high school game. Saturday, he was watching the nation’s seventh-best college team.

His college team.

“The atmosphere and the energy’s great,” Jones said of Davenport, “and I hear it’s even louder on the field than in the stands. So I can only image what it’s like to be on the field.”

He won’t have to wait that much longer to get his own test.

Jones, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander, is rated as the No. 26 player in the country according to PerfectGame.org. His fastball has topped out at 96 mph. In 2013, he’s 8-0 with 62 strikeouts in 43 innings. He has yet to allow an earned run.

Naturally, Jones was creeping up Major League Baseball Draft boards. ESPN.com pegged him as a first-round pick, a slot that usually leads to a seven-figure paycheck.

But Jones has opted for Virginia instead.

“For me, the decision was never really about the money,” Jones said. “It was about the longevity of my career and meeting my short- and long-term goals. The money was never really a huge factor.”

Development was.

Sure, Jones has the wow-factor heater (he said he normally sits in the 90-94 mph range), but he also commands the game with an effective slider and a change-up.

At UVa, he’ll bring his strategy to Karl Kuhn, the pitching coach who’s regarded as one of the best at his position in the country.

“That fiery passion that he has, I love it,” Jones said of Kuhn. “I don’t think it gets any better than that.”

Kuhn has helped produce the likes of Danny Hultzen, Tyler Wilson and Will Roberts during his decade at Virginia. Jones could be the next in line. After all, Jones made his initial pledge to the Cavaliers during a phone conversation with Kuhn in July 2011.

“It was all Coach Kuhn,” Jones said. “I had never even met Coach O’Connor when I committed. It happened that quick. We were down at Wake Forest and it was over the phone with Coach Kuhn.

“It was very exciting.”

As is the potential for Virginia’s 2014 season.

The current Cavaliers host VCU at 6 p.m., tonight, in an effort to grab their 43rd win in 51 chances. They’ll do it with a lineup stocked with six sophomores and a freshman. Their weekend rotation includes a freshman and a sophomore.

Throw Jones into next year’s mix and O’Connor could have his most loaded squad since his arrival in 2004.

“There’s some potential to do some pretty special things here,” Jones said. “I can expect to come here and know that I’m going to work my hardest and give myself the best possible opportunity. Whatever the coaches feel and whatever works out will happen, but I know that I’m going to give my best effort to help the team.”

It should be noted that Jones remains draft-eligible, but “basically, I have no intentions of signing,” he said.

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