When making a list of the most-criticized and speculated-about players in the country, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones has to be toward the top.
Begin with the fact that he was the Preseason SEC Player of the Year, add in lingering charges of inconsistency on the floor, and pile on incidents that don’t help to shake the label of “immaturity” off the court, and you can see why.
But on Sunday afternoon, Jones showed the side of his game that many have raved about, the side that still has NBA scouts nodding in agreement, pointing and saying, “If he can consistently do that, he’s a pro.”
He finished with 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting, helping the No. 1 Wildcats to a 74-59 win over No. 16 Florida on the road in Gainesville, Fla.
This performance from the Oregon native showed who Kentucky (already dominant, as is evidence by their 30-1, 16-0 record) can be when firing on all cylinders.
The continually aggravating case of Jones, blessed with a 6-9, 252-pound frame, boils down to how good he, personally, wants to be.
Were one to have seen Jones play for the first time on Sunday afternoon, it would be difficult to understand the criticisms that have followed him to this point in his career.
Lack of aggressiveness? Kentucky fed him the ball in the post and he attacked the rim, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the first half on 7-of-9 shooting.
Emotions? Jones drove the early Wildcat attack and was positively emotional, in contrast to what has been seen in the past.
When Jones is clicking, Kentucky is clicking.
Yes, they have other scoring options in Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Anthony Davis, but bringing Terrence Jones into the fold, along with the others, means athleticism in the offensive attack that can be matched by less than a handful of teams in the country.
Bottom line? Consistently aggressive and focused play from Jones in March will make it that much more difficult to beat this supremely talented bunch of young Wildcats.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_