Is Terrence Jones really back?


LEXINGTON, KY – “Terrence Jones is back. Not much to it.”

That’s how Anthony Davis summed up the performance that his front court mate had in Kentucky’s 79-64 win over South Carolina on Saturday afternoon, and he had a very valid point. Jones had been a different player for the past month, starting at halftime of UK’s 73-72 win over North Carolina back on December 3rd. Since that game, Jones had only managed to score in double figures once, averaging 5.0 ppg and 3.0 rpg while shooting 32.3% (10-31) from the floor.

It didn’t help matter that Jones was dealing with a dislocated finger on his shooting hand, an injury painful enough for him to miss two games.

Jones snapped out of that funk in impressive fashion Saturday, finishing with 20 points in 32 minutes on 8-9 shooting from the floor. He would have finished the game a perfect 8-8 if he hadn’t jacked up a three late in the second half.

“To be playing with more confidence and get it going like that was real good,” Jones said after the win.

“That’s the Terrence Jones we know. He took that last three, that made me angry, but short of that?” head coach John Calipari said after the game. “Just getting him to be aggressive offensively, make baskets, make free throws, make that three at the end of the first half. That’s who he is, but I told him after the game, now is when you work harder than you have been working. I said ‘Do you want to go back to where you were?’ He said ‘No.'”

There is no question the scoring boost is nice. Kentucky has had times this season where they have looked a bit lost offensively. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been a playmaker all year long and Doron Lamb, Darius Miller and Marquis Teague have all shown flashes — some more often than others — of being capable of carrying this team for extended stretches, but there is little doubt who the most talented offensive weapon on the UK roster is.

Terrence Jones.

He’s a 6’9″ power forward with an impressive array of god-given physical tools that can score from anywhere on the court. When he buys into what Coach Cal asks of him — take smart shots, run the floor with a purpose, aggressiveness without being selfish — he looks like an all-american. When he doesn’t, he looks like he should be coming off of the bench. Its as simple as that.

“I get a lot more assists off him,” Teague said with a laugh when I asked him what kind of influence this Terrence Jones has on the Kentucky team.

The issue, however, isn’t necessarily his scoring.

Kentucky can win games without Jones going for 20 points.

Where his presence is needed more is in the oh-so-important “doesn’t show up in the box score” department.

Kentucky has one of the most imposing front lines in the country with Jones, Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist. But Jones is really the only guy they have on the roster that has any kind of physical presence in the paint. Davis is a terrifyingly-good shot blocker, but he’s a string bean that will get pushed around by the heavyweights in the SEC. MKG is a junkyard dog, but he’s all of 6’6″; he’s not going to be bodying up Patric Young or Arnett Moultrie.

To me, the most important stats you will find in Saturday’s box score is the one defensive rebound that Jones grabbed and 16 offensive rebounds that South Carolina came down with. If the Gamecocks were better, that could have really cost Kentucky.

Coach Cal agreed, saying “I wanted him to get about two or three more rebounds, but he played well.”

Its tough to criticize a kid that went out and scored 20 points in a game like Jones did tonight, but I think the criticism is valid. Jones is that good. He has as big of an influence on the direction of the Kentucky season as anyone on their roster, and its up to him alone whether or not he lives up to that standard.

He’s the difference between whether or not Kentucky is a Final Four contender or the favorite to win the national title.

And to be fair, he showed signs of taking steps towards reaching that potential on Saturday.

“He flew up and down the court. When you run that fast and you try to play that hard, you’ll be aggressive offensively,” Coach Cal said. “When you are passive on defense and passive going for balls and don’t want to mix it up, there is no possible way you can be aggressive offensively. It doesn’t work that way. Your body doesn’t switch on at one end and switch off at the other end. You’re always tough or you’re always soft. And he hadn’t been wanting to mix it up. He didn’t at Indiana.”

And it was more than simply running the floor. There was one possession in the first half where he dove for a loose ball and while he didn’t come up with it himself, Kentucky ended up gaining possession when the ball probably should have gone to South Carolina. I can’t remember the last time I saw Jones hit the floor like that.

“We haven’t seen that in a while. He did stuff that he’s done in the past, and now he needs to build on it,” Coach Cal said. “This isn’t like OK, I’ll back up and put my toes up and go eat cheetos. Now, I’m going to go work harder. … I’m not going back to where I was.”

“Some guys argue that, I haven’t had many. Some say, you know what, if I listen to him, it works out well. Its worked out well for everyone else, maybe I should listen to him. They also know that its about them, its not about me. Its about them, so why shouldn’t they listen to me? Its not smart.”

At this point, its all up to Jones.

As Coach Cal laid out, Kentucky has just 12 real practices left on the season. Of the 60 days remaining in Kentucky’s regular season, 16 are games, 16 are practices to prepare for an upcoming game, eight are off-days and eight more are light days the day after a game. Do the math, and there are only 12 times where Kentucky’s coaching staff will be able to get in the gym with Jones and try to get him to bust his tail to improve himself.

The rest is on him.

“Because I’ve been working out and preparing myself better,” Jones said when asked what the difference was on Saturday. “If I’m playing, worrying about getting hit, not wanting to shoot because I know I can’t shoot because it hurts and I can’t grip the ball. Working out and making shots and seeing it go in and believing it won’t hurt as much anymore is what helped.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.