That time Keon Ellis wowed former Alabama basketball star Herb Jones

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

Former Alabama basketball star Herb Jones hasn't wasted much time impressing his teammates in the NBA. 

Drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans, Jones quickly earned the nickname "Not on Herb" for the defensive ability he displayed during voluntary workouts in September. 

“I don’t know who coined it, but it just kind of came naturally, because it’s true,” guard Kira Lewis Jr., a college and now professional teammate of Jones, told NBA.com. 

Fresh off SEC player of the year and defensive player of the year awards, Jones' defensive ability has not only has earned him playing time in his rookie year but also some time in the starting lineup. 

The Tuscaloosa News recently spoke with the Greensboro native to talk life in the NBA, his time with the Crimson Tide and former teammate Keon Ellis. 

Q: What's your life been like since the end of the NCAA Tournament to today? 

Herb Jones: It's been crazy. Everything has been moving kinda quick. Once the season ended, I took a little time off to just decompress and then got back to work. Did my pre-draft in Chicago. I feel like that helped me move the needle in the right direction as far as draft status. Got drafted, went out to summer league, just trying to go out there with the defensive mentality to go out there and stop some people. Not play too lax or laid back. Show everybody that we're going to show up and play hard and do all of the little things to get wins. Then at the start of the season, it was so crazy to me that I got to start so early. It's still crazy to me to be honest. I just had to snap out of the dreaming phase and get to work. 

The record (1-11 entering Thursday) doesn't show it, but I think that once we get healthy and we start figuring out the system and how coach wants us to play, I feel like we'll be pretty good. 

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Q: What's been the biggest adjustment or challenge for you, going from the college to pro game? 

Jones: Definitely the physicality. Like how the refs call the game. That's been the biggest adjustment that I've had to make so far. 

Q: What's been your favorite part of playing in the NBA?

Jones: Going places that I never even thought about going to. Like my first time in Dallas was when we went in and played Dallas. My first time in Sacramento when we went out to Sacramento, that was only my second time in California. I went out for a camp, but I had never been out there. I had never seen cities out in California. So, I would say the traveling part of the NBA is what I'm enjoying most right now. Just because I haven't been to a lot of the places that we'll be going to. 

Q: Looking back at Alabama's season in 2020-21, what are you going to remember years from now? 

Jones: I think the first thing that will come up is, we had a small amount of fans and still won a bunch of games without the crowd piece, which was super weird. I feel like a lot of good teams, they have a great home court advantage. That's the first thing, but overall, just how connected and tight the team was on and off the court. The chemistry was great. 

Q: Your former coach, Nate Oats, has said Keon Ellis is going to be the guy leading the charge in replacing the void left by your departure as the defensive stopper. What qualities does Keon have that you think are important to fill that role? 

Jones: I'm going to tell you this story. The first time I ever played pickup with Keon, I left after the pickup game and called my brother and told him, Keon Ellis, he got it. The first time we played, he played with like this pace. He never got sped up. He knew all the right reads to make. I just loved playing with him. His game, he can shoot from three. He can finish at the rim. I feel like he can guard 1-4. He handled it, passed it. 

Last year, he learned. Coach Charlie (Henry) helped him a lot defensively. Just learned all of the reads to make defensively and how to help guys. Being a defender is not just you being able to lock up one on one. It's being able to help your teammates be better on defense as well. He's doing that and will continue to do that this year. 

Contact Alabama reporter Nick Kelly: nkelly@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly