Terrence Jones' Kentucky teammates thought he was going, going, gone.
To the riches of the NBA.
Yet Jones stayed at UK.
"I was a little bit surprised," Darius Miller said. "He could have been a (draft) lottery pick. That would have definitely changed his life."
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Says Doron Lamb: "I thought he would leave. If I (were) him, I would have left. If they said I was going in the lottery."
Kentucky had a men's basketball "media availability" Thursday in the Joe Craft Center with four veteran Wildcats. There, Jones explained what it's like to face a life-altering career decision when one is not even a year out of high school.
"It was tough," the Portland product said of passing up what was expected to be a selection late in the NBA Draft lottery. "I'm not that good at making decisions by myself."
The personable 6-foot-8 southpaw listed three main reasons he gave up a chance at immediate wealth to be a college sophomore.
"Really, just to try to win a national championship," Jones said. "(To) get more mature. College was just too fun and I wasn't ready to leave."
The 2012 NBA Draft is projected to have a far higher talent level than 2011's. Yet Jones says his goal is to be a "top-three pick" in '12. "That's just a dream," he says. "I'll try to work my hardest and, whatever the outcome is, I'll still be happy with it."
Below, in alphabetical order, you will find a summer postcard from four returning UK men's basketball players.
Basketball goal for the summer: "Improve pretty much every aspect. Shooting, rebounding, just improving as a complete player."
Question he's tired of answering: "A lot of people ask me how I (turned down all the NBA money). Even people in my family."
His answer to the question he's tired of answering: "I just felt it wasn't going anywhere for me. That I would, hopefully, still be able to make that jump when I feel ready."
What if you never become a lottery pick? "That would be very frustrating. But I just feel it would be on me. For that not to happen, it would be because I did something wrong. I just feel I won't let that happen to myself."
Basketball goal for the summer: "Improve my ball handling a little bit, my strength."
Saying no, himself, to the NBA to be a college sophomore: "I thought my game wasn't ready yet. I want to work on my game, get my body ready, and try to win the national championship."
The loss to UConn in the Final Four: "I think about that every day. We were right there to have the national championship and we just fell short. Hopefully, this year we go back and win the whole thing."
Impressions of the incoming UK freshmen: "We've played pickup one time. It was like one in the morning, playing pickup. Terrence (Jones) scheduled it. I don't know why (laughs). The young kids are good. They're all talented. Anthony (Davis), he dunks crazy."
Basketball goal for the summer: "Improve every aspect of my game. Nobody is really perfect. I need to get better in every single way. I'm trying to do my part, stay in the gym, the weight room."
No. 1 entering next season: Kentucky or North Carolina? "Don't think too much about it. The pre-season rankings don't mean anything, really. We just saw at the end of the year, the people who were in the Final Four weren't really the top-ranked teams."
Best friend Shelvin Mack's NBA draft prospects: "I don't have a clue. I'm sure everyone else talks to him about that constantly; I just try to talk to him about the stuff we've always talked about."
Kung fu fighting? Miller laughed when asked if he had followed John Calipari's post-season suggestion to take a kick-boxing class to improve his aggressiveness. "I don't know nothing about no karate or anything like that."
Basketball goal for the summer: "Right now, I'm doing a lot of work to get bigger. What I'm trying to do right now, get more aggressive."
Role on next year's team: "Energy, rebounding, blocking shots. That's my goal."
Review the food when you played on an all-star team that toured China in May: "Bad. I had rice and chicken for three weeks, breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day. I got so tired of it. I couldn't wait to get home."
The pain of a devout Miami Heat fan: "I don't really want to talk about it. I didn't tweet a lot (after the Heat lost to the Mavericks). But I'm a Miami Heat fan no matter what."