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Minium: ODU Men's Basketball Coach Mike Jones Using ODU's Loyal Fan Base as a Recruiting Tool

Cam Easton

NORFOLK, Va. – New Old Dominion head coach Mike Jones has a ton of assets at ODU to help lure the kind of recruits he needs to rebuild the Monarch men's basketball program.
There is the 8,500-seat Chartway Arena, which, with luxury suites and club seating, was designed to be a miniature version of an NBA arena. There is the Mitchum Basketball Performance Center, the 25,000-square foot facility with basketball courts, weight training facilities, locker rooms, coaches offices and a players' lounge just steps away from Chartway.
There is ODU's growing campus in the center of a region of 1.7 million residents, located just minutes from Virginia Beach.
But Jones said the one asset that truly sets ODU apart from other mid-major schools is its fan base.
ODU was 7-25, last in the 14-team Sun Belt Conference and finished the season by losing nine of its last 10 games. But the Monarchs led the Sun Belt with an average of 5,760 fans per game.
James Madison, which finished 32-4 and upset Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, was second with 5,280 fans per game. 
"That was a focus of a lot of conversation at the Sun Belt Tournament," said Dr. Wood Selig, ODU's director of athletics. "People were amazed by our fans, not only that they turned out in large numbers, but also how loud and supportive they were."
Marshall (4,502) and Southern Miss (4,256) rounded the top four, and an aside here: all four joined the Sun Belt in 2022. ODU, Southern Miss and Marshall came from Conference USA and JMU from the CAA.
ODU's promotional staff deserves a lot of credit for selling large numbers of group tickets, but the vast majority of fans are long-time Monarch followers who have remained supportive through good times and bad.
Jones met with members of ODU's sports marketing team last week to put together videos and other promotions intended to catch the eyes of recruits.
"ODU played on Thursday nights, and because we didn't play on Thursday, I got to see a lot of games on TV," said Jones, who resigned as an assistant coach at Maryland to take the ODU job.
"The team struggled at times, but the fans were always there."
Jones is an alumnus who was an All-CAA choice in 1995, when the Monarchs upset No. 2 seeded Villanova in the NCAA Tournament. At the time the Monarchs played at Scope and the old ODU Fieldhouse.
"I can't wait until the day when we are playing to sellout crowds at Chartway Arena," he said.
ODU has received a number of phone calls and emails about renewing or purchasing new season tickets.
You can reserve new season tickets, and also a place in line to select seats, by clicking here. ODU will also soon be accepting ticket renewals and a notice when that process begins will be posted at
Recruiting "is going well," Jones says
Jones said ODU has received two verbal commitments players in the transfer portal and hopes to have one more in the coming days.
Although players can announce verbal commitments, neither Jones nor any other ODU official can speak publicly about recruits until they have formally signed with the university.
"That will give us direction as to where we go from there," he said. "We might have one more player from the portal and maybe one more high school player."
ODU signed three players under previous head coach Jeff Jones during the fall early signing period – Caden Diggs, a 6-foot-7 wingman from Waldorf, Maryland; Ethan Lathan, a 6-11 center from Rockford, Illinois and Deion Ware, a 6-5 guard from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Mike Jones said he realizes that retaining high school players has become more difficult in the age of the transfer portal and NIL.
"Our goal is to get them here, coach them and then keep them," he said. "We want them to fall in love with this place, with our fans, and make them realize they can get to the NBA just as easily here as they can anywhere."
Jones coached nine players now in the NBA as the head coach at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, and coached many more in his role as a coach for USA Basketball. Among the first things he asked for was for an "NBA Wall" graphic to be added to his office to remind players
"For some players, it's not always realistic" to plan for an NBA career, he said.
"But we want players to know, you can do it from here. We've had a lot of guys do it here at ODU. You can get it done from here. There's no need to leave and go somewhere else.
"You don't need a bigger platform."

Jason Wade will coach, and try his hand at fundraising
ODU senior Jason Wade has long professed a desire to coach but will try his hand at another potential career path this summer as a fundraiser.
Wade will spend the summer working an internship with the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation, ODU's athletic fundraising organization, before taking on his role as a graduate assistant for the men's basketball team in September.
Certainly, few coaches, fundraisers or former players have a better story to tell than Wade.
The Richmond native started most of two seasons for ODU before successive knee and Achilles injuries knocked him out of playing the next two seasons. Wade then sat out another year while fighting off severe depression, a battle he won thanks to psychological help and medication.

He returned to play the last two seasons, and although he never regained the form of old, he was far and away the most popular Monarch among ODU fans and a solid player off the bench.
He was popular in part because he's been around the ODU program for six years and in part because of his courageous comeback from injuries and depression.
But mostly, it was because no one worked harder on the court than Wade.
"Right now my plan is to go into coaching," Wade said. "But I'm really looking forward to working with ODAF.  I don't know if that is something I could make into a career. But I plan to work hard and learn as much as I can.
"I'm so thankful to be returning to the basketball team."
Jones didn't know Wade prior to arriving at ODU. "But honestly, after being around Jason for just a few weeks, I feel like he can do whatever he wants," Jones said.
"He's that impressive as a person. He has a calm demeanor. He's very mature. You can tell he works hard. And people tend to gravitate toward him.
"I feel like he'd be successful in coaching or fundraising. Selfishly, I hope he becomes a coach because I think he can be a really positive influence on young men."
Minium is ODU's Senior Executive Writer for Athletics. Contact him at or follow him  on TwitterFacebook or Instagram