Kentucky Basketball: What the Heck Is Wrong with Terrence Jones?
The Kentucky Wildcats’ preseason All-American? Or overhyped player who doesn’t show up for big games?
Jones’ freshman year was an up-and-down affair. In the beginning of the season, the forward looked unstoppable. As the year wore on, however, fans sometimes forgot he was on the court at all.
When Jones announced he would return to Kentucky for his sophomore season, expectations were high.
He was widely thought to be the most dominant player on the team, maybe even in the country. The extra year of maturity was supposed to remove his freshman inconsistencies.
Throughout the first eight games of the season, Jones often played like an All-American. Then, against the Indiana Hoosiers, Jones disappeared completely.
He scored four points, had six turnovers and recorded one measly rebound.
So what’s the problem? Here are a few theories.
Maybe Terrence Jones is not tough enough. The Indiana Hoosiers were a physical team. They shoved under the basket, played tight defense and denied penetration.
Jones was visibly outhustled. At one point, he had a rebound ripped out of his hands while standing completely alone under the basket. Everyone else had run down to the other end of the court. Jones was simply too soft with the ball.
Jones is clearly uncomfortable when he is pushed around. He shies away from posting up and is all too content to just stand around the perimeter to avoid banging inside.
If Jones is supposed to be the leader of this team, he cannot avoid contact. His tendency to get pushed around has plagued him during his time with the Kentucky Wildcats.
In his sophomore season, Jones should have put these problems behind him.
Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari runs a dribble-drive offense that is supposed to get every player involved. The basic principle is that four players play outside the three-point line, driving whenever possible.
Terrence Jones has the strength and quickness to wreak havoc in such an offense. He should be able to drive by his man every time he catches the ball.
But Jones often gets lackadaisical while playing outside. He doesn’t have a reliable drive and his three-point shot is shaky.
Jones primarily serves as a facilitator, catching the ball then immediately reversing it to a teammate.
Jones is not involving himself in the offense and therefore becomes content to sit back and watch his teammates play.
The type of bored attitude is not easily shaken, as Jones proved in the Indiana game. He must stay focused for 40 minutes or else he will disappear.
Gets Too Up for Games
To take a break from maligning Terrence Jones, maybe his problems do not stem from a disinterested attitude. Perhaps Jones gets too amped for games.
Some players get so excited for games that they cannot channel their energy into effective play.
In the first half of the Kentucky Wildcats game against the Indiana Hoosiers, Jones’ teammate Marquis Teague clearly struggled because he was too up for playing against his hometown team.
In the first half, Teague was very unproductive because he tried to do too much.
Maybe Jones has a similar problem. Perhaps he wants so badly to prove doubters wrong and play well that he cannot calm down.
Kentucky fans are crossing their fingers that this is the explanation and that Jones can learn to play his way out of it.
Mental either on the part of the opposition or Terrence Jones himself.
If Jones misses some shots, doesn’t grab rebounds or makes other errors on the court, it would be easy for him to get down on himself and his play.
If his coach yells at him for these mistakes, Jones’ anger at himself could become even greater.
When Jones gets in his own head, he plays tight because he is so worried about every little mistake.
Another possibility is that the opposing team gets in Jones’ head. Physical play or trash-talking might get to Jones more than other players.
Oftentimes, when facing a program with as much success and tradition as the Kentucky Wildcats, opponents get amped up and like to talk trash. The game against the Indiana Hoosiers is a classic example.
The game meant much more to the Indiana players than it did to the Wildcats. They were undoubtedly talking trash and trying to assert themselves. Jones clearly wanted no part of it.
Defenses Geared to Stop Him
After his freshman year, Terrence Jones could have bolted early for the NBA and a sure first-round selection. When he decided to return to the Kentucky Wildcats, he became the number one target of every opposition.
Jones was a preseason All-American and widely considered Kentucky’s best player. Defenses adopted the philosophy that if you stop Jones, you stop the entire team.
Whenever Jones gets the ball, he is swarmed. He is often guarded by the opposing team's best players.
Defenses are geared to stop Jones and players are constantly swiping at the ball when he drives and doubling when he catches the ball in the post.
Because Jones demands so much attention, it is that much easier for him to get frustrated.
One mistake becomes two, becomes three and then spirals out of control.
Frustration is purely mental and Jones seems to have a particular problem with it.
If he misses one shot, gets a quick foul and doesn't involve himself in the offense, Jones can easily take himself out of a game.
Jones must learn that if his shot is not falling, there are other ways to remain engaged. He can get rebounds, play great defense or set up teammates with assists.
Jones does not have to score points in bunches to help his team. Jones’ biggest contribution should be his attitude. He should be constantly scrapping for rebounds and diving for loose balls.
Instead, Jones lets one mistake snowball into four or five and then has an awful game. He cannot get past his initial frustration.
The least savory explanation for Terrence Jones’ vanishing act in the past two games is pouting.
If John Calipari yells at Jones for missing a block out or not running hard, does he retreat to the bench and mope instead of focusing hard on his next play?
Oftentimes, Jones’ facial expression while sitting on the bench tells the story.
In his freshman season, Jones looked mad and affronted that he would ever be spoken to sternly. He was upset that his coach was yelling at him and allowed his displeasure to adversely affect his game.
However, so far this season, Jones’ expression has been different. He has looked removed and disinterested as opposed to upset or insulted.
While it is certainly good that Jones has grown up and (hopefully) stopped pouting, being expressionless is almost worse.
No True Position
Terrence Jones’ size—6’9”, 250 pounds—dictates that he should be a small forward in the NBA.
For the Kentucky Wildcats, however, Jones has often had to fill in at power forward because of the team’s lack of height and depth.
Jones, however, does not seem comfortable at either position.
When he catches the ball in the post, Jones does not have an arsenal of go-to moves to take his man one-on-one. If he is double-teamed, Jones has not learned how to pivot or dribble out of trouble and pass to a teammate.
When Jones plays outside on a wing, he cannot drive to the basket reliably. He often loses control of his dribble and gets the ball batted away.
At the moment, Jones seems most comfortable with a mid-range game, catching the ball a bit outside the lane and powering it to the basket.
Jones is not good at creating for himself. He benefits greatly from good passes, setting him up for quick and easy points.
Despite the fact that Terrence Jones is supposed to be a leader on the Kentucky Wildcats, it is important to remember that he is still just a sophomore.
Maybe things would be different if Jones had a senior leader on the team with a strong personality to whip him into shape.
But he does not have that luxury. As it stands, it is Jones’ responsibility to figure out what is wrong and to fix it.
Only Jones knows what is truly going on in his head, but because he is just 19 years old, he cannot figure it out.
Opponents sense his youth and know that they can get into his head and bully him out of position.
Jones needs to grow up quickly if he is going to continue to help the Kentucky Wildcats.