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Long Island's Myles Jones making an impact for Duke lacrosse

Duke lacrosse player Myles Jones, formerly of Walt

Duke lacrosse player Myles Jones, formerly of Walt Whitman High School. Credit: Duke Athletics

When Duke midfielder Myles Jones, a 6-4, 240-pound package of agility and power, weaves his way toward the cage at top speed, he looks like a mobile quarterback dodging defenders.

Been there.

When Jones backs his big frame into the crease area for a slam-dunk goal, he looks like a power forward fighting for position in the low blocks.

Done that.

"He's a multisport athlete with transitional skills," Duke coach John Danowski said of Jones, who starred in football, basketball and lacrosse at Walt Whitman High School.

As a sophomore this season, Jones has emerged as a genuine force for the Blue Devils, the defending national champions who are in the Final Four this weekend for an eighth straight season.

"Myles is extremely hardworking and one of the most coachable people I've ever been around. He has a really high athletic IQ. You can see his progression. We saw his potential, but he's certainly surpassed where we thought he would be at this point."

Jones had modest success last season as a redshirt freshman, with 16 goals and five assists while starting five of 18 games.

"He got some playing time and battled the typical ups and downs of a freshman," said Danowski, the former men's lacrosse coach at Hofstra. "We don't put a lot of pressure on sophomores at Duke because at the end of the day, they're just sophomores."

But Jones put some pressure on himself when he realized Duke had graduated three of its top four midfielders. "After all the guys left from last year, I stepped into a big role as a sophomore," said Jones, who has 33 goals and 24 assists in 2014. "I was forced to grow up and play like a senior."

He certainly looked like a savvy veteran in last Sunday's 19-11 quarterfinal win over Johns Hopkins, scoring three goals with four assists, including one particularly spectacular feed, and will certainly draw the attention of the Denver defense in Saturday's first semifinal game at 1 p.m. at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Maryland faces Notre Dame in the 3:30 game and the winners play for the national championship at 1 p.m. on Monday.

"When we play our game, we're real confident," said Jones, who Thursday was named a second-team All-American. "I just got the ball in opportune spots and took advantage of that. Putting the ball in the net takes the nerves away and lets us play our game."

With his jaunty style and effervescent smile, you wouldn't associate Jones with jitters. But he said, "I get nervous for the games. But when the guys around me play well, it eases the nerves. It's so much easier to play to your potential when everyone around you is playing well."

His coach said Jones is part of the reason why Duke is once again peaking at the right time.

"He makes other players around him better and he feeds off the other guys as well. It allows us to be patient and deliberate on offense when necessary," Danowski said. "He's making the extra pass and not every young man buys into that. He's dangerous as a scorer and feeder. He has some real gifts."

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