What's wrong with Kentucky's Terrence Jones?

Empty effort against IU baffles experts

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 13, 2011 

  • Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday
    Where: LP Field in Nashville
    TV: ESPNews
    Radio: WBUL-FM 98.1; WLAP-AM 630; WWRW-FM 105.5

During his radio show Monday night, Kentucky Coach John Calipari said Terrence Jones seemed "shell-shocked" since his desultory performance at Indiana on Saturday. If so, UK's All-American candidate would not be alone in stunned disbelief.

Dick Vitale, who worked the game for ESPN, said earlier Monday that he found Jones' play hard to believe or understand.

"Incredible," Vitale said. "This isn't the kid I picked for first team All-American."

Vitale said he wondered if Jones was sick or distracted by an on- or off-court problem.

"He looked like he was pouting," Vitale said. "He looked like something was bothering him. He looked totally not into the game."

Calipari acknowledged that, the lack of production aside, Jones did not make a good impression on anyone who watched the game.

"He almost came across like bad body language and (bad) attitude," said the UK coach, who noted how unusual such an appearance would be for Jones, who had drawn praise in the pre-season for his diligence and enthusiasm.

In an attempt to explain Jones' almost indifferent play in Bloomington, Calipari suggested that Kentucky's practices during the week prior to the game were probably less intense than Indiana's.

Those practices "hurt Terrence more than anybody else," the UK coach said. "He looked totally like the game was too physical, too fast ... "

For Vitale, the nadir came in the game's final minutes when Calipari benched Jones as Kentucky tried to achieve a come-from-behind victory.

"If I was a player and I was a first-team All-American, I would say, 'Oh my God, the game's on the line and my coach has me on the bench,'" Vitale said. "'What is that saying about what I'm doing?'"

Another ESPN analyst, Jay Bilas, said he watched the game telecast. He, too, found Jones' play puzzling. When asked to explain why a star player might be practically a no-show, if not a detriment, in a nationally televised game against a traditional rival, Bilas said, "I don't know. That's the thing. Those things are hard to explain. Maybe he wasn't as mentally and physically prepared for that kind of atmosphere on that particular day."

UK officials did not make Jones available to reporters after the game.

On Sunday, Jones twice tweeted about the reaction to his performance. He wrote that he would remember the "haters." He also wrote that he and his teammates would ultimately make UK fans proud. Of the latter, Bilas said, "I don't doubt that for a second."

Vitale termed Jones' tweets as a good sign.

"He's showing some emotion and he's showing some sense of pride," Vitale said. "I have no problem with that."

While Bilas said poor play by standout players happens regularly, Vitale said the kind of performance by Jones was highly unusual.

"I've been doing games for 33 years," Vitale said. "I can't ever remember a great player in a game where I ever had to talk about (not) playing hard. I've had guys have bad games. Obviously, that happens to everybody. I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's sick. It was really embarrassing, to be honest with you. ...

"I can understand kids having a bad game. Not scoring. Maybe forcing turnovers. I cannot understand not playing aggressively, and he didn't play aggressively in a very emotional (game)."

Jones took three shots, scored four points, grabbed one rebound and committed six turnovers in 28 minutes. Indiana ripped balls from his grasp. IU's Christian Watford blew by him for a layup with about three minutes left. Shortly thereafter, Calipari benched Jones.

Vitale said he defined hustle in terms of blocking shots, getting deflections, offensive rebounding, steals and forcing turnovers.

"The kid has to look in the mirror," Vitale said. "There's no question he let his teammates down. It's not about putting up numbers. I have no problem with that. I have a problem if you're not playing hard."

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