Focus under pressure: Craig’s Hudson Jones setting sights on state round for Elks Hoop Shoot |

Focus under pressure: Craig’s Hudson Jones setting sights on state round for Elks Hoop Shoot

Hudson Jones stares down the rim from the foul line in the Craig Middle School gym. Jones won the district round of the Elks National Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest, progressing to state Feb. 23 in Salida.

Hudson Jones will be shooting first and asking questions later for the next few weeks.

Hudson took top honors during the district round of the Elks National Hoop Shoot. Hitting 18 of 25 free throws during the competition, held Jan. 12 in Rifle, Hudson earned first place among boys 12 and 13.

After winning at the local event in December with a tiebreaker scenario, the Craig Middle School seventh-grader said he was a little intimidated in an age category where he was still up against eighth-grade competitors.

“It was very competitive. All of them were very good,” he said.

Hudson Jones gives the ball a spin.

A foot over the foul line penalized him in the final results — which he was sure to correct when he successfully sank one during the halftime free throw contest during Moffat County High School basketball games last weekend — though he was otherwise satisfied with how he kept his cool.

“It was definitely a lot more pressure trying to get to that next level, but I knew the only way to do it is trying my best,” Hudson said. “I just focused right on the rim, saw the space and concentrated.”

With a win at the district round, the next level is state, which takes place Feb. 23 in Salida.

Until then, he’s heeding the advice of contest organizers, who told him 500 practice shots per week is a must, if not more. It was an element of the game he worked on regularly during the CMS winter hoops season.

Craig Middle School’s Hudson Jones seeks a teammate to pass to against Steamboat Springs.

“My dad says that if I’m really focused down there, I can hit all 25, but it’s gonna take a lot of mental strength. Hopefully I can develop that,” Hudson said. “I just want to try to get that repetition and do everything good mechanically.”

His mother, Amy, a Sunset Elementary School teacher, is helping him prepare with access to the school gym to put up shots for hours on end.

However, she knows being at the line with a crowd watching when the true contest comes will be tougher than a quiet practice space.

“I’m excited to see how he handles some of that pressure and how all of his hard work’s going to pay off,” Amy said.