There has been much debate among college basketball watchers about the effect of the looming NBA lockout on decisions to leave school early and enter the draft. Many claim that it has had little effect, but John Calipari noted earlier this year that it would have a major impact, and Terrence Jones' decision to come back yesterday offers further insight into this. According to Jones' mother in an article in the Oregonian:
Jones' mother said perhaps the strongest influence that kept her son in school was the possibility of an NBA lockout. The NBA collective bargaining agreement expires June 30.
"At least you know school is a for-sure thing," Mashia-Jones said.
Whenever you hear Jared Sullinger or Harrison Barnes claim that the lockout situation had no effect on them, remember this comment. These young men are not fools, and their advisers are not children -- they knew perfectly well what Terrence Jones seems to have divined by going through the process. They, too, preferred the sure thing of another year in school and a shot at the national title to the prospect of waiting for their first NBA paycheck.
Which brings us to another question that has yet to be formally answered, but is strongly hinted at by Jones' decision here -- if nothing changes, the short early entry deadline this year will produce more players coming back for the "sure thing," although that will certainly not be universally the case.
I do think the high probability is that the NBA will up their age limit by a year, which may well inspire the NCAA to revisit it's short deadline, although they need not do so. It is also likely that there will be a few players who take the plunge blindly and fail to get drafted, which will produce much hand-wringing among the commentariat and outbursts at the NCAA, but in the end will act as the kind of cautionary tale that makes players not totally benighted to strongly consider putting off the draft entry decision if their game is not clearly ready.
Given the information he received from the NBA decision-makers, it is clear that the balance of equities for Terrence Jones was tilted significantly to returning to Kentucky, and given what I know about the situation, it was a sharp decision on his part. I appreciate his mother's candor about what drove this decision, and I think it speaks very highly of Terrence's thoughtfulness. It also suggests something we maybe didn't suspect -- that the experience of UK really is something that Jones enjoys.
Jones had an up-and-down academic record in high school. Early on at Jefferson High he was a disinterested student, daydreaming about professional basketball and neglecting his studies. His mother pushed him to turn that around and he did. Now, it seems from his remarks that Jones has become a fair to good student, and may well have learned to enjoy learning at UK. That's very encouraging, especially with the distraction of the NBA all the more real with every day that goes by.
All in all, Jones' decision is a significant benefit for the Kentucky Wildcats next year. Jones brings immediate impact to both team defense and rebounding to go along with his scoring. The biggest things Jones needs to develop in his second year at Kentucky are a consistent perimeter shot and his off hand, in Jones' case, his right. I have no doubt that Coach Cal will take the project of developing Jones into a high first-rounder as seriously as he did Patrick Patterson, and I expect equally outstanding results.
Hopefully, we will get to welcome back DeAndre Liggins as well later today.