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Jemel Jones is making scoring history as SSC Bulldogs set sights on nationals

South Suburban College

LANSING, Ill. (March 8, 2024) – When Olive-Harvey fired its men’s basketball coach after last season, Jemel Jones decided it was time for a change for himself as well.

The guard from Eisenhower High School transferred to South Suburban and the rest is history.

Jones has emerged as the most prolific scorer in NJCAA Division II, leading the nation at 33.4 points per game. The 6-4, 165-pounder also among the Division II leaders in steals per game (3.5, fourth), rebounds per game (9.9, tied for 17th) and assists per game (5.7, tied for 18th).

And he’s a big reason the Bulldogs are 30-2, ranked No. 3, and aiming for another trip to the Division II nationals.

Jones came to South Holland last summer to discuss the move with coach John Pigatti.

“He let me know that we (were) going to be in here all summer, playing basketball, getting better,” Jones said. “He told me how I was gonna get better, where I was gonna develop my game in certain areas.”

That’s all Jones needed to hear.

The biggest difference Pigatti has made in Jones’ game from last season to this year?

“Most importantly, stamina,” Jones said. “Just being (here) in the summer, running and running. Working on ball-handling and just constant, constant conditioning.”

Pigatti has known Jones for years, since he was a young player attending South Suburban’s basketball camp. And he saw Jones’ scoring ability last season at Olive-Harvey. The coach also saw Jones could be more efficient.

“Last year he was a volume scorer but he was also a volume shooter,” Pigatti said. “This year we’re getting him good shots. This year we’re getting him in the right spots so he can score without shooting so many times. If he’s got to shoot it 40 times a game, we’re in trouble.”

As the Bulldogs’ record and Jones’ stats show — he’s shooting 55.9% from the floor, 38% from 3-point range, and 83% from the foul line — South Suburban is seldom if ever in trouble.

Credit Jones’ blue-collar attitude.

“He’s in here every night,” said Pigatti, who is in his 18th season at SSC. “He’s our hardest worker when it comes to shooting, when it comes to working on his all-around game as well. … He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve had in my entire time here. He’s the best player I’ve ever coached.”

Making Jones’ game more well-rounded has been a major focus.

“We’re trying to work on his defense more … and he’s done a lot better,” Pigatti said. “He really hasn’t been taught that.”

Jones also played baseball and football growing up, but basketball owns his heart.

“It’s a lesson in it, I think,” he said. “I always learn something. You’ve got to win with a team. It helps you share and just be a better person.”

Jones will be moving on to a four-year school next season and Pigatti expects him to be a good get for some NCAA Division I program. Some coaches have reached out, but Jones has put his recruiting on the back burner till after the season.

“I’m not too focused on that right now,” Jones said. “I’m trying to get us a championship here.”

The Bulldogs advanced to the Midwest District title game with a 97-66 win against Moraine Valley on March 3 as Jones had a triple-double of 37 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. Freshman forward Quentin Heady added 16 points and 11 rebounds.


The Bulldogs opened their annual Texas trip on Thursday by splitting with Baton Rouge, winning 5-4 and losing 6-0.

Two TF South grads, Caden Podgorski and Hector Galvan, combined for 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in the second game. Christian Holmes had three hits on the day for South Suburban (8-5).


Mike Clark
Mike Clark
Mike Clark is a veteran journalist who has been covering sports in the Chicago area and beyond, from preps to pros, for more than four decades.