2017-18 boys' basketball: Best friends Matt Mims, Jackson Joens hope to guide Xavier to 3-peat

Cedar Rapids Prairie's Griff Clark (5) drives between Cedar Rapids Xavier's Matt Mims (5), left, and Jackson Joens (14) during the first half of a game at Prairie High School in  on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Prairie's Griff Clark (5) drives between Cedar Rapids Xavier's Matt Mims (5), left, and Jackson Joens (14) during the first half of a game at Prairie High School in on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — You ask them to provide scouting reports. Not on an upcoming opponent, but each other.

Not as basketball players, but as people.

What is Matt Mims like? What is Jackson Joens like away from the court?

“A really good kid. Puts everyone before himself,” Joens said. “Just so selfless. A great, great guy. A funny guy, too. Very funny.”

OK, Matt. Your turn.

“A great guy,” Mims said. “He’s goofy, but in a good way. He’ll do anything for someone he cares about. He’s a great person.”

These great, goofy, selfless, caring guys have become best friends. It’s a bond forged through years of being teammates at the AAU level and at Cedar Rapids Xavier High School.

They have won back-to-back Class 3A state championships together, even signed their official letters of intent for college in a ceremony together a couple of weeks ago. Point guard Mims is headed to South Dakota State, wing player Joens to Division II Upper Iowa.

This season is their encore, their final chance to be together, play together. They hope win one more title together.

“That was the goal since day one, to get to The Well,” Mims said. “I always believed in us, always believed we could do good things. But the fact that we’ve been able to do it is ... incredible.”

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“Me and Matt talked in eighth grade about winning a state championship our senior year,” Joens said. “We kind of laughed about it, like there was no way that was going to happen. Now we’re in a position where we could win our third, and that’s pretty cool.”

They are three-year starters who play off of each other well: Mims the unflappable floor general, Joens the 6-foot-6 pure shooter. Many times you’ve watched Mims drive to the basket to score, draw a foul or kick the ball back out to his buddy.

There’s undeniable chemistry there.

“When he decided to switch (AAU teams) from the Barnstormers to Martin Brothers, I decided to switch to Martin Brothers. Just so our chemistry could be greater,” Joens said. “We basically know what we’re going to do before we do it. It’s a lot of fun playing with him.”

“I can remember dressing them for their first trip to Des Moines (as freshmen),” said Xavier Coach Ryan Luehrsmann. “They were young, and the uniforms didn’t quite fit right. But they soaked it all in, and they’re pretty confident guys. Jackson tweeted, I believe, after we lost to Wahlert that year (in the 3A semifinals) that he and Matt and their teammates would never lose another game at The Well. So far that has held true. Hopefully we can find a way to get back down there one more time here and extend that.”

Mims led Xavier in scoring last season (15.3 points per game) and posted an absurd assist-to-turnover ratio of 135-41. Joens averaged 11.6 a game and shot it at a 45-percent clip from the 3-point arc.

They know they’ll have to do even more for Xavier to three-peat. The Saints don’t really have an inside presence and graduated roughly half of a playing rotation that wasn’t very large to begin with.

“I think we’ll be more spread out,” Joens said. “Try and attack more that way. We don’t really have a true post man, but I think everyone on our team can shoot. I think it’ll be really fun to watch.”

“It’s going to look a little bit different this year,” said Mims, who plans on red-shirting his freshman year at South Dakota State to get stronger. “We’ll have some underclassmen who will have the opportunity to play. We just need to keep getting better every day. If we keep doing that, the sky is the limit for us.”

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They’ll get a chance to find out a lot about themselves early. The opener is Tuesday night at Mount Pleasant, a 3A state qualifier last season and consensus top-five team.

The rigors of the mostly 4A Mississippi Valley Conference awaits, too. Regardless of what happens in the next four months, the journey already has been an unforgettable one.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Mims said. “I know we’ve got to flip the page and keep working. But, yeah, these last two seasons have been incredible. I have loved every minute of it here at Xavier.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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