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Kentucky Basketball: Is Terrence Jones Back?

Terrence Jones looked better, but he's still not all the way back from injury and his sophomore funk.
Terrence Jones looked better, but he's still not all the way back from injury and his sophomore funk.

Yesterday against the South Carolina Gamecocks, Terrence Jones managed his second double-digit scoring game since the North Carolina Tar Heels came to town back in early December. Since that time, Jones has been mired in a "sophomore slump"-like funk, combined with a dislocation of the little finger on his shooting hand which cost him two games on the bench.

I'm not sure yesterday was a watershed for Jones, though. As welcome as his excellent shooting percentage from the field and the 20 big points he scored were, Jones was a non-factor on the glass despite his imposing 6'9" 250# frame and impressive athleticism. Jones manged only 3 rebounds for the game, 2 offensive and one defensive.

Given the Wildcats' overall performance (or lack thereof) on the backboards yesterday, I think it's safe to say that Jones did not really bring what Kentucky needs from him, although he brought a lot more than he has been. That can only be seen as a good sign.

Jones has always been something of an enigma from the day he reneged on his confused commitment to the Washington Huskies until yesterday. Jones reminds me a bit of Randolph Morris, a guy with a lot of talent and physical skill who all too often looks like he is playing with the Arby's logo drifting above his head. Jones frequently looks, and plays, like his mind is on anything but the game. While I'm sure that exaggerates the problem, his focus appears to be, shall we say, somewhat less than razor-sharp.

Terrence Jones' Trends -- 2011-12

With that said, we did see some flashes from him yesterday. On one play in particular, Jones made a diving attempt to steal the basketball that ultimately resulted in a jump ball, and that is the sort of hustle that was lacking, for the most part, from Kentucky's play yesterday. It was good to see Jones get after it like that when his teammates were either unable or unwilling, and it gives us all hope that he may be on his way back to the All-American form we saw from him early in the season.

Jones seems to be a mercurial sort of person and player. Despite his great size and formidable skill, he appears to lack a bit of self-confidence that is, quite frankly, hard to understand. His occasional demonstrations -- flexing, three-goggles and so forth -- tend to confirm to me that he is insecure with his game (and likely himself) for some reason, and needs to overcome that timidity and trust both his own game and his teammates. It may be that despite two years in college, he is still not ready to do this basketball thing for a living, and still has considerable growing up to do.

Compare Jones with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is confident of what he can do and comfortable in his own skin. MKG almost always acts like he has "been there before," despite the fact that he never really has, at least not in the college sense. But MKG is a winner, knows he's a winner, and is going to win.

Jones needs to borrow some of that, and make it his own.