Terrence Jones burst onto the college basketball scene last year with his 23.0 points per game performance in the Maui Invitational. Kentucky fans saddened by the exodus of talent from the year before were enlightened to see the likes of Jones and Brandon Knight exceed expectations.
This year, Jones is an AP Preseason All-American, and is looking to build on his impressive rookie campaign where he averaged 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
In the 2011-2012 season, Terrence Jones will be the best player in college basketball. There were flashes of brilliance last year, where he simply took over for the Wildcats.
Take, for example, his December 8th game against then-ranked #23 Notre Dame. Jones scored 27 points, shot an even 50% from the field, and nabbed 17 boards. Add the fact that he turned the ball over once and did not commit a single foul, and it was probably his most complete performance to date.
Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, and maybe even teammate Anthony Davis will give Terrence Jones a run for his money as best player in the nation. Here is why I think it will be Jones:
Note: There are multitude of 'should' in this article. There is a possibility that, unfortunately, I am wrong in my assessment and Terrence Jones regresses into the player he was last year.
As a freshman in high school, Terrence Jones was 6-3. His above-average ball handling skills are a product of him playing point guard in high school. He is a prototypical 'freak of nature', with a 7-2 wingspan and a 6-9, 252 pound frame.
All this means he can take any big man off the dribble, post up any quicker guard, and essentially score against any defender. His spot-up shooting is one of his few unpolished skills on the offensive end of the court.
To be considered the best player in the nation, one must garner a following. The bigger the following, the more hype a player will get. As a star at the University of Kentucky, Terrence Jones is already a celebrity. All of the Commonwealth will be clamoring on behalf of Jones, and for good reason.
Madison Square Garden provided Jones with a high-profile stage to showcase his next-level talent. Almost every single game will have this atmosphere for Kentucky, and each win will garner more and more attention.
Last year, John Calipari had to modify his dribble-drive offense to reflect the athletes on his team. Brandon Knight was not a typical dribble-drive point guard, so Kentucky regularly went into set plays.
While Terrence Jones still thrived in this style of play, his abilities are much better suited for a more up-tempo offense. With the likes of Marquis Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist able to break down the defense, Jones will see more looks because of the high amount of possessions Kentucky will have.
That's Jeff Withey, Kansas' 7 foot center. Terrence Jones has proven he can go toe-to-toe with any low-post presence, and although his blocks and steals won't be that high, Jones can defend any position on the court.
What is not noted in the box score is his hustle. Jones is a superstar that is willing to hit the deck for any loose ball. His rebounding numbers speak for themselves, and his defensive prowess should not be overlooked.
Last year, Terrence Jones was Kentucky's go-to guy. Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb were there, but Jones received the most defensive attention because of his capability to score in so many ways. This year, Lamb and Jones are joined by fabulous freshmen Marquis Teague, Kyle Wiltjer, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Anthony Davis.
No defense will be able to key in on Jones alone, and if they do, they will get burnt by the slew of other weapons John Calipari has at his disposal. His supporting cast may infringe on his rebounding numbers, but he will continue to score in Kentucky's dynamic offense.
Terrence Jones is still an unfinished product. It is obvious in the way he shoots, in the way he is inconsistent, and in his maturity. But he knows that he must be the leader of this Kentucky team. This will make him into a better player, and while he still may not reach his potential this year, he should be a much more consistent player.
If Jones improves his jump shot and stays consistent on both sides of the ball, watch out.
Like him or not, John Calipari is one of the best coaches when it comes to preparing his players for the NBA. Calipari has had coached strikingly talented players like Terrence Jones in the past, so he knows what it takes to motivate.
Jones will reap the benefits of having a coach that knows what it takes for a player to be considered the best in the nation. Calipari knows Jones' potential better than anyone, and with his coaching, we should see a more consistent Terrence Jones in 2011-2012.
He is the leader of this Kentucky team, regardless of the fact that Darius Miller is the lone contributing senior. Against Kansas on November 15th, it was Terrence Jones that sparked Kentucky in the second half with his enthusiastic play.
Jones' play is infectious, and anyone that watches Kentucky play will know that Terrence Jones is the leader of his team.
With the surplus of talent Kentucky has this year, Terrence Jones will most likely not be getting every look for his team. However, his mobility on the offensive side of the ball is paramount if Kentucky expects to win.
Because Jones is so lengthy, he can easily sky for rebounds near the rim. He has the ability to go right back up with them as well with his ability to finish down low. These second chance opportunities will give him even more chances on the offensive side of the ball.
Kentucky opens its season against Kansas, Saint Johns, North Carolina, and Louisville. These games will give Jones his chance to showcase his talent in front of large TV audiences.
The SEC is better than it has been in recent memory, but it is still not as strong as the Big Ten or Big East. Jones will have the luxury of playing 'easier' teams on the road compared to other great players in the nation, and he will take full advantage.
Terrence Jones lets the game come to him. He is patient when he gets the ball on the block and he is patient on the wing. On the block, he can excel in passing out of double teams and he is a great finisher at the rim.
On the wing, Jones is much of the same. He was essential part of the Kentucky offense last year because of his patience on the wing. This year, expect him to evolve his game through forcing less shots and making smarter plays.
Tuesday, November 15th, Terrence Jones was pitted against Thomas Robinson of Kansas. They are both around the same size (both are 6-9, Jones outweighing Robinson 252 to 237), both are projected to be drafted in the first round. But Jones outperformed Robinson at Madison Square Garden.
With 3:31 left in the game, Jones drew a charge to foul out Robinson. Jones was noticeably pumped up, and with good reason. Both players were battling throughout the game, and were observably hostile towards one another.
Terrence Jones won that contest, and will win many more against any top player he faces.