John Calipari

TJ starting to get some fans back

Tue, 04/03/2012 - 7:21am
Cliff Pfenning
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Congrats Coach Cal, and those boys who got you your first NCAA men's basketball title Monday night.

Especially, the Portlanders: Terrence Jones and Kyle Wiltjer; both of whom have experienced quite a lot of success in their young basketball careers. Each has three state titles and, now, an NCAA title in hand.

Their careers are ready to be judged by their professional results with Jones on the fast-track to this year's NBA Draft. Of the players on the Kentucky roster, he might have done the most good for himself during the title run simply by not doing too much.

Even though Jones is among the players analysts regularly consider an NBA Lottery pick, he's also regularly viewed as a questionable talent, something that gets written about as "when he shows up," which isn't a great thing to have in your talent bio.

Jones has developed that line for years, which I got to see first-hand at Jefferson.

The Democrats won Class 5A titles in 2008, '09 and '10, but during his final two seasons he was basically allowed to do whatever in most games. Jefferson lost only two games to another Portland Interscholastic League team in those three seasons, and I happened to see one - to Franklin, a Class 6A school that didn't win a playoff game. The Demos lost because the Quakers were an inspired, scrappy group, and Jefferson regularly played defense with four players. Jones rarely crossed mid-court to play defense. He did this in a lot of games as a junior and senior, and didn't move to Kentucky with a ton of fans from the PIL, something honed even further when he picked Washington as his school of choice via the Internet, then changed his mind five minutes later.

For people who work hard and value commitment, Jones didn't head to Kentucky with a lot of fans who'd seen him in person.

(As Jefferson is my neighborhood school and I've often volunteered there, I visited the campus plenty and Jones was almost always in the main hall, no matter what time I visited.)

During his freshman season in Lexington, he played quite a bit and seemed to always be listed among the top 10 players headed for the 2011 NBA Draft as a small forward. The lockout was probably one of the best things that could have happened to him as it helped those around him motivate him to stay in school.

In his sophomore season, he continued to develop as a player, and hopefully as a person, and won an NCAA title, which is a pretty rare accomplishment - just ask Coach John Calipari.
His draft ranking seems to have slipped in the past year - from that Top 5 to Top 15 arena - which will affect his rookie contract, but the extra year has likely given him a better shot at a longer pro career.

So, what kind of professional is Terrence Jones likely to be? That's the question for every draftee.

Jones showed a lot of what his true potential is, at least in his early years, during the Final Four. He's mostly going to be a defensive presence. Almost all of his points were scored on dunks, finishing a fastbreak or cleaning up someone else's miss. He rarely attempted a jump shot, or even posted up despite his size: 6-foot-9, 252 pounds.

Jones entered Kentucky as a shooter, a small forward, but only attempted seven 3-point shots in six tournament games as a sophomore. He made just 13 of 26 free throws in the same six games. He finished the Final Four with just 15 total points, but grabbed 14 rebounds and had four blocked shots. He helped both Louisville and Kansas struggle to score inside - both teams missed numerous dunks.

What Jones did in this tournament is provide a better idea for NBA general managers of who he can be as a rookie, what role he can play: mostly as a garbage man on offense and general stud on defense.

There's room for that kind of player in the NBA, especially one that's in the neighborhood of winning a title without having to lean on him for too much in the early part of his career.

Of course, there's a lot of other guys in the league already in that position and not looking to give up their minutes very easily.

So, bravo TJ, for starting the long process of winning back the fans of hard work and commitment, a fan base that doesn't look for points, but results.

 

Portland celebrates NCAA title with Kentucky

Jones, Wiltjer earn title as Wildcats dump Kansas in season finale
April 2, 2012

The Kentucky Wildcats won the NCAA Men's Basketball title Monday night, and two Portland communities celebrated intimately with the school.

Terrence Jones, who won three state titles while at Jefferson High, scored 9 points and had 7 rebounds for the Wildcats, while Kyle Wiltjer, who was part of three state title teams at Jesuit High, played as a reserve in a 67-59 win over Kansas at the Superdome in New Orleans.

The win gave Kentucky its eighth national title, but its first with an Oregonian on the roster.

Jones and Wiltjer replace South Medford grad Kyle Singler as the most recent Oregonians to have won a national title - Singler having won with Duke in 2009 - when he was selected Final Four MVP as well.

Kentucky finished the season 38-2.

 

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