Once A Hawk, Always . . .

News, as we know, travels faster than ever. So it was no surprise that Saint Joseph's University coach Phil Martelli was aware that Dwayne Jones, one of his former stars, had made his way back to the NBA. The 6-10 Jones, a former Atlantic 10 Defensive Player Of The Year, signed with the Charlotte Bobcats just before Monday night's game against the 76ers.

I had called Martelli several days ago to get some thoughts on Jones, because it was public knowledge that Jones was returning from Turkey to take another shot at the league. Martelli and the Hawks, though, had already left for the Maui Invitational Tournament. Given Martelli's schedule and the time difference, I was hardly expecting a return call.

But I got one today, just after the Hawks defeated Indiana 80-54.

Martelli dialled in just before reviewing the tape of the game and beginning preparations to face Alabama tomorrow.

''What I've noticed about Dwayne is, getting to the NBA, knocking around, scratching and clawing, he really has a work ethic that allows you to cheer for him, to pull for him,'' Martelli said. ''He knows nothing is going to be easy, and he didn't expect it to be easy. Getting cut by Orlando, going to Turkey, he was doing what he had to do.''

Jones, since leaving Saint Joe's, has been employed Minnesota, Boston and Cleveland, and has made a couple of stops in the NBA Developmental League. He was recommended to Bobcats coach Larry Brown by injured Cavaliers guard Eric Snow (a former Sixer) and Cavaliers assistant coach John Kuester (a former Sixers assistant).

''We talk every summer when he comes through, and he doesn't feel entitled to anything,'' Martelli said. ''He's a grinder, and if you're always a worker you're never a distraction. I think by the time he finishes his career, he'll have a long list of teams on the back of his trading card.''