UK Men's Basketball

Injury, 'different team' alter Terrence Jones' role

Kentucky Wildcats forward Terrence Jones (3) lost the ball in traffic as #2 Kentucky defeated Arkansas Little Rock 73-51 in Freedom Hall  on Tuesday  January  3, 2012  in Louisville, Ky.  Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats forward Terrence Jones (3) lost the ball in traffic as #2 Kentucky defeated Arkansas Little Rock 73-51 in Freedom Hall on Tuesday January 3, 2012 in Louisville, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

To put a positive spin on it, Terrence Jones has shown his versatility so far this season. He's gone from All-America candidate and the league's pre-season Player of the Year to selfless "glue-guy" as Kentucky opens Southeastern Conference play Saturday against South Carolina.

Jones sounded accepting of what he called the "ups and downs" of his sophomore season.

"This team is all about winning," he said Friday. "We don't really care who gets the points as long as we get the win."

Ranked No. 2 nationally and sporting a 14-1 record, Kentucky has plenty of victories.

As for points, Jones' scoring average is down from his freshman season: 15.7 to 11.2.

Until the double-whammy of a desultory performance at Indiana on Dec. 10 and then dislocating a finger on his shooting hand a week later, Jones' numbers were about on par with his stellar freshman season. His scoring average was 15 points per game. His rebound average was down, but only slightly: from 8.8 to 7.5.

Jones acknowledged that he hasn't been the same player lately. Beginning with Indiana, he's averaged 5.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in his last five games.

"Just really slowed me down," Jones said of the finger injury's effect. "I'm just ready to go into this part of the season."

The injured pinky finger, which he said remains less than fully healed, is a continuing hindrance and an almost unavoidable target.

"My dominant hand," he said. "I know I can't be as much a scoring threat as early on. I'm not even trying to be. I know I can't shoot well, so I'm not looking for as many shots as I would if my hand was 100 percent."

UK Coach John Calipari has asked Jones to concentrate on rebounding. As he described how Jones can contribute, Calipari seemed to connote a scrapper who hustles his way to a productive statistic line. What didn't come to mind was a star turn by an All-American.

"The greatest thing about rebounding is you can be as selfish as you want to be," Calipari said. "Get a few offensive rebounds. You're one foot from the basket. Make a few, you're there."

Jones, who has made only a third of his shots and only two of nine three-point attempts since the St. John's game on Dec. 1, sounded content with putting rebounding first.

"I just know I wanted to get rebounds because that's what my coach wants," Jones said. "I don't care about points knowing I'm not 100 percent. Coach told me to rebound, so I told him that's what I'll focus on."

While wearing a wrap that binds the pinky to the ring finger, Jones has grabbed 23 rebounds in the last three games.

Jones and Calipari spoke of the player's changing role as a sophomore. "Last year, we had a different team and we had to play a little different," Calipari said before adding, "We'd still like him to put up numbers. I'd like him to get 11 rebounds (and) get 15 (points), some games 20."

The statistical category of double-doubles suggests Kentucky's diminished reliance on Jones this season. All 13 of his career double-doubles came as a freshman.

When a reporter asked if Jones was unsure of his role with UK this season, he said, "Nah. I don't think so."

The sophomore forward suggested UK doesn't need him or any player to repeat the kind of production he displayed last season, although he and others could provide it.

"On the team we have, I feel if guys were on other teams, they could score a lot more points," said Jones, who a moment later dismissed the importance of numbers. "I just like winning," he said. "Whatever gives us the best chance to do stuff."

Calipari spoke of how Jones should show more effort rather than dwell on the statistical byproduct of his performance.

"We want him to score 15, 20 points," the UK coach said. "It's not like the coaches, we don't want him to. He's doing fine.

"You've got to play harder. You've got to play rougher. Come up with more balls. Balls will start dropping in for you. A few free throws. A few jumpers. All of a sudden, you're scoring 15, 16 points a game easy.

"And he should be able to do that."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader