John Clay: An important lesson learned for UK's Jones

Jones vows start-to-finish focus

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistDecember 8, 2010 

Terrence Jones sat on the bench after fouling out against North Carolina on Saturday.

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

Based on the data, you'd call it a trend.

In the five games that the Kentucky basketball team has won this year, Terrence Jones has played well, sometimes very well.

In the two games Kentucky has lost, Jones has not played well, in one game not well at all.

That would be Saturday's 75-73 loss at North Carolina, which for the freshman from Portland, Ore., was an affair to forget. Jones was a miserable 3-for-17 from the floor. He scored all of nine points, the first college game in which he had failed to crack double digits. He fouled out.

It was foul trouble that hampered Jones in the Maui Invitational finals against Connecticut. The rookie picked up two fouls and an early seat on the bench. While he watched, Kentucky wilted. UConn led 50-29 at intermission. Jones picked it up in the second half and finished with 24 points, but he played a season-low 27 minutes.

Against North Carolina, Jones played 28 minutes.

"Pretty much, I've just got to prepare myself better," Jones said Tuesday. "I missed shots I normally make. It was just difficult. And when that happens in such an important game, you've just got to pretty much stay focused and keep playing."

And Jones said this: "I pretty much got down on myself."

He said he let his poor shooting affect his game. He made silly mistakes on defense. He became frustrated. He committed fouls. It was an all-around grimace game.

His coach, John Calipari, said this: "He learned a great lesson about preparation. A great lesson."

Meaning, Jones wasn't mentally prepared Saturday. It was a 12:30 p.m. start, yet the freshman woke up, then returned to sleep. His clock was off. So was his game.

"From the beginning of the game, he never got into the game," Calipari said. "He was never emotionally connected to the game. There was no sense of urgency the entire game."

Urgency is the key. When he comes to play, Jones can play as well as any freshman in the country. He's that good. He can shoot from outside, he can score inside. He has, as Calipari has noted, that quick re-jump coaches constantly crave.

And to this Kentucky team, that skill set is especially important. The Cats are athletic, but not particularly tall or deep. Brandon Knight is destined to be a terrific guard. Doron Lamb is progressing rapidly. But Knight is 6-foot-3, Lamb is 6-4. Jones is 6-8. Unlike last year, this Kentucky team doesn't have a lot of players who are 6-8, not with Jones' skills.

Consider that in UK's five wins, Jones has made 38 of 75 shots for 50.7 percent. He's averaged 11.4 rebounds.

In UK's two losses, Jones has made just nine of 28 shots for 32.1 percent. He's averaged five rebounds.

"If you think, 'All right, I'll turn it on five minutes in,' that's high school," Calipari continued. "It doesn't work that way."

How should it work?

"You get up for a pre-game meal and from that moment on, everything you're doing is geared toward getting you ready for a game," Calipari said. "You don't go back to sleep. ... You owe it to your team. Your team has to trust that you're going to do this. You've got to be responsible to each other."

Jones said he wasn't responsible to his teammates, not really, not on or off the floor. He talked to Calipari after the Carolina game. He's young. He's learning.

"I let my teammates down by me not handling playing bad on offense well," Jones said Tuesday. "Not doing other things that I should do. I just can't do that again."

As the data shows, not if Kentucky wants to win.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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