UK Men's Basketball

Analyst: Terrence Jones must improve to star as pro

Kentucky forward Terrence Jones (3) reacted to a Kentucky run as #1 Kentucky defeated #5 North Carolina 73-72  on Saturday December 3, 2011  in Lexington, Ky.  Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky forward Terrence Jones (3) reacted to a Kentucky run as #1 Kentucky defeated #5 North Carolina 73-72 on Saturday December 3, 2011 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff ©2011

During the pre-season, ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted about how Terrence Jones needed to improve to become a top-five pick in a future NBA Draft. Nothing this early season has changed Fraschilla's mind.

"There's no doubt about his ability to play in the NBA," Fraschilla said Tuesday. "The question is how good a player does he want to be in the NBA."

Fraschilla identified three areas where Jones can and should improve:

■ Effort. "There are games he should be the best player on the floor, and that's not always been the case."

■ Use of his right (or "off") hand. "He definitely couldn't be a one-arm bandit. Last year I thought he was very, very left-handed. That will get exposed on the NBA level."

■ Perimeter shooting. Because his NBA position figures to be small forward, Jones will need to become a more consistent shooter.

Fraschilla qualified his tweet and follow-up comments by noting Jones' productive play for Kentucky as a freshman and sophomore. Through eight games this season, Jones leads UK in scoring (15.0 ppg) and free-throw makes and attempts (28 of 39). He ranks second in rebounding (7.5 rpg), three-pointers (eight of 16) and blocks (20).

The Southeastern Conference named Jones its Player of the Week after he averaged 20 points, eight rebounds, 3.5 blocks and three steals in UK's victories over St. John's and North Carolina.

"We're going to laud his success this year as a Kentucky player because he's going to have a very, very good sophomore year," Fraschilla said of ESPN's coverage.

In assessing Jones now and as a future player, the analyst said he was talking about the difference between a standout college talent and a high-level NBA player.

When asked what separates the former from the latter, Fraschilla said, "You have to have a pure (NBA) position or your skill level has to match the likely NBA position. And for Terrence, his best NBA position is likely to be small forward."

That translates into more polishing of Jones' skills in order to become a more accomplished perimeter player.

Fraschilla described Jones as something of a hybrid. On the small side for NBA power forward despite being listed at 6-foot-9 and 252 pounds by Kentucky.

"That means he'll have to continue to work on his outside shooting," Fraschilla said.

Defensive improvement must also be a priority for a would-be NBA small forward, the analyst said. "He'll have to guard guys like Kevin Durant every night," Fraschilla said. "The most athletic position in the NBA is the small forward spot. He's going to have to make a commitment to defend those guys on a night-in and night-out basis."

More than once, Jones has said that one reason he came to Kentucky was to be pushed by Coach John Calipari. Fraschilla, a friend of Calipari since they were counselors at a Dean Smith summer camp in 1978, said the UK coach gives Jones a knowledgeable push to improve.

Calipari identifies shortcomings "as a NBA scout will be when it comes time to select him," Fraschilla said. Along with NBA vets on Kentucky's staff, Rod Strickland and Kenny Payne, Jones and other UK players get "the unvarnished truth" about not only getting to the NBA but playing well on that level.

"Guys like me are talking heads who don't see Terrence Jones every day in practice," Fraschilla said. "But when a Kenny Payne tells them, 'You've got to work on getting your shot off quicker or be more consistent about bringing effort every night,' the value you put on that is enormous."