Derrick Jones has heard the critics:
All he can do is dunk. He's not strong enough to play on the interior, he doesn't shoot well enough from the perimeter, and he hasn't led his team to any championships.
When the 6-foot-7 senior for Archbishop Carroll isn't being serenaded by chants of "overrated" from opposing fans, that's what he hears most often.
"It doesn't bother me," Jones said after practice Wednesday. "Well, it bothers me a little bit, but at the end of the day, I dunk, and I do that well. It's not the only thing I do well, but it's just one thing everyone sees."
When your name rings out across the nation in your freshman year, and you commit to UNLV on national television as a senior, not all the attention is positive. The fact that the Patriots haven't won any championships during his tenure has only encouraged the naysayers.
However, thanks in large part to Jones, the Patriots are on the verge of statewide glory. Carroll will face Neumann-Goretti at 8 p.m. Friday for the PIAA Class AAA state title at the Giant Center in Hershey.
"I came into Carroll my senior year with the mind-set that I don't want to lose," Jones said. "I want to go out a winner."
A long-armed lefty with spring-in-his-step to spare, Jones has excelled in AAU basketball, which typically yields an up-and-down pace that favors the athletic.
With team We Are One, Jones has won AAU championships in several age groups, and he has won many dunk contests.
Success in a traditional high-school style has proved more elusive.
"[People say] I have to get stronger, I have to knock down a jump shot and not just jump over everybody," Jones said. "This year, I've been working on my shot, but I haven't been shooting it because my team needs me to get buckets in the paint."
An injury to 6-9 forward Ernest Aflakpui (Temple) earlier this season meant Jones needed to assert himself inside.
He leads Carroll in points (18.8), rebounds (9.8), and blocked shots (2.2) per game. He has averaged 22.4 points in his last seven games.
"The focus has been on him with all the national attention he received . . .," Carroll coach Paul Romanczuk said. "I'm really proud that he can block all that stuff out and perform like he has over the years, and we've played in some hostile environments."
Early on, however, crowds got to Jones.
"My sophomore and freshman year, it was hard," he said. "I was really immature. I was basically playing off of emotion. Them saying, 'Oh, you're overrated, Derrick's overrated,' I didn't have the drive to get myself in the gym and work on my game a lot. But now that I realize that's what will get me to the next level, there are just things I do in the gym to make them shut up."
That hard work has Jones and the Patriots close to a title.
"I just want to go out with a bang and get a win," he said. "I broke the scoring record at Carroll, so why not win a state championship? Then, I could be named one of the best players to ever play at Carroll."