Cincinnati Bearcats Basketball mourns loss of Herb Jones; a star during Bob Huggins Era

Herb Jones (courtesy UC Athletics)

CINCINNATI — University of Cincinnati basketball standout Herb Jones passed away Monday at the age of 51. Jones was a 2021 James P. Kelly Athletics Hall of Fame inductee and the leading scorer and rebounder on the Bearcats men’s basketball 1992 Final Four team, earning the region’s Most Outstanding Player award with the help of a 23-point, 13-rebound performance against Memphis State in the Elite Eight.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Herb Jones and our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time,” John Cunningham, Director of Athletics, said. “Herb was one of the greatest basketball players in Cincinnati history and his legacy as one of the leaders of the 1992 Final Four team will forever live on. He left an immeasurable impact on the Bearcats community. Herb will be dearly missed by all.”

Jones was a two-year starter for the UC men’s basketball program (1990-92), including averaging a team-best 18.1 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game during the 1992 Final Four season. He is the only Bearcat to reach the 1,000-point milestone in just two seasons. Jones earned Honorable Mention All-America honors as a senior and finished with 1,097 points and 475 rebounds for his career, while his 27 points in the 1990 season opener against Sam Houston were the most in a Bearcat debut since 1974.

“In a lot of ways, Herb was responsible for the resurgence of Cincinnati basketball,” former Cincinnati, and current West Virginia, head coach Bob Huggins said. “Herb was the first great player that I recruited to UC, and he helped set the tone. He was a big reason why the three California guys (Terry Nelson, Erik Martin and Corie Blount) came to Cincinnati. Herb, along with those three guys, turned around not just UC basketball, but UC Athletics overall. Thank goodness he was put into the UC Hall of Fame, although much later than it should have been. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time. He loved Cincinnati and the Bearcats. He will be deeply missed.”

The Atlanta native attended Brown High School before becoming a two-time All-American at Butler Community College (Kansas). When he was recruited to Cincinnati by Huggins, Jones quickly became key to the resurgence of Bearcats basketball in the 1990s, embodying the hard-nosed, determined spirit that’s defined the program in the decades since. Standing just 6’3½” tall at the forward position, Jones was a Bearcat who played beyond his stature, serving as the defensive backbone to one of the greatest basketball teams in Cincinnati’s storied history. He held Memphis State star Penny Hardaway to just 12 points in the 1992 Elite Eight, well below his season average of 17.4 points. The showing played a central role in punching a ticket to the program’s only Final Four appearance since 1963.

“Our entire program is saddened by the passing of Herb Jones,” Cincinnati head coach Wes Miller said. “My team and I were honored to meet Herb over Labor Day Weekend. Herb is one of our all-time greats. He was the leading scorer on a Final Four team and was at the heart of bringing our program back to national prominence during his career. He was a true Bearcat that deserves our recognition and respect. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and his former teammates and coaches.”

After his playing days in Cincinnati, Jones’ career took him overseas where he helped Bàsquet Manresa win their only Spanish Championship in 1998 by averaging 12.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game and scoring in double figures 24 times in 34 games.

Jones is survived by his wife, Lilo. Funeral arrangements are being made at this time. 

COURTESY UC ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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