Terrence Jones has meant a lot more to this team than most realize.
What if I told you a little bit about two players on a basketball team, then asked you to pick which one was more valuable, or who deserved more accolades?
Player A's statistics: 12.6ppg, 7.2rpg, 1.4apg, 1.3spg, 1.8bpg, .501FG%, .641FT%, .333 3P%
Player B's statistics: 12.0ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.9apg, 1.0sgp, 0.9bpg .486FG%, .755FT%, .260 3P%
Armed with no other information, wouldn't you conclude these two contributed almost equally to their team's success?
What if I told you that Player B was everybody's All-American, a certain top 5 NBA pick, universally loved by the fan base and lauded across the country for his work ethic and drive, while Player A struggled for recognition even in his own conference and among his team's fans. What if I told you that Player A was sometimes called inconsistent or euphemistically an "X-factor", even though he had fewer single digit scoring performances than Player B?
What if I told you that Player A gave up a sure fire NBA contract to play for your team an extra year, and in doing so may have lost himself millions? What if he played through pain and missed games due to injury, only to emerge on the other side as a better player and teammate? What if he willingly took three fewer shots a game than he did a season ago, all in the name of team ball? Would you feel him then?
If you are a Kentucky basketball fan, or can read the title of this article, you know Player A is Terrence Jones. Player B Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who deserves everything coming his way, and who I mean no disrespect to. It is funny to me, though, how little fanfare and, frankly, how much criticism has been leveled at Terrence Jones this year. After all, Jones passes more than any 6'9" guy in the country not named Royce White and dives on the floor and hustles more than anyone on the team other than Gilchrist. He brings a warrior spirit, one that he doesn't always get credit for.
Jones is the cleanup hitter on this team, protecting Davis in the three spot. Opponents really do have to pick their poison with the Kentucky Wildcats. There are a lot of reasons for that, but worrying about two guys as big and talented as Davis and Jones has to be first on the list. Gilchrist is the uber-talented glue guy and Darius Miller and Doron Lamb the pure scorers, but Jones has truly been the Robin to Davis's Batman. He has done this without complaint. For a guy who I occasionally criticized as selfish last year, that is a really big step.
Kentucky is going to it's second Final Four in as many years. Without him wearing a Wildcat uniform, that number would be zero.
I couldn't be prouder of this kid. We all should be.