Nothing epitomizes Perry Jones III like his performance against No. 1 Kentucky as the third-seeded Bears were eliminated from the NCAA tournament with an 82-70 loss just one win away from the Final Four.
Jones had just two first half points, as he struggled to establish himself during a 37-12 surge by the Wildcats to take a 42-22 lead heading into halftime. At that point, the game was, for all intents and purposes, all-but over. Beating Kentucky is difficult enough. Doing so while digging out of a 20 point hole is nearly impossible.
But in the second half, Jones looked like a different player. He was more aggressive and assertive on both ends of the floor, finishing the game with 17 points and eight rebounds. If you at the box score, you would think that Jones had played pretty well.
And he did. In the second half. As Baylor trimmed a 20 point lead down to ten.
That right there is the issue with PJ3. Consistency. The kid has all the talent in the world, and he showcased it for 15 minutes in the second half before he fouled out of the game. He’s good enough to be some combination of Blake Griffin, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki, yet there are elongated stretches of time where he is nonexistent. For every play that leaves you in awe, there is a point where you say to yourself, “wait, Jones is on the floor right now?”
It is a frustrating thing to watch. But is it fair to hold that against him?
PJ3 is a good kid. He’s overcome a lot in his life. He goes to class and he gets good grades and he’s proud of the fact that he gets good grades the same way he’s proud of the fact that he played on a team that made the Elite Eight. Isn’t that what we are always looking for at this level? Would we embrace the fact that Jones is a true “student-athlete” more if he was having more success on the “athlete” side?
For that matter, can’t we say the same about the Baylor program as a whole? For all the criticism that Scott Drew gets, he just took Baylor — Baylor! — to their second Elite Eight in three years. He’s coached a senior class that not only second a record for career wins, but they set a record for career GPA.
Did Baylor underachieve this season? Probably. Has PJ3 played up to his ability this year? Not on a consistent basis.
But did they deserve the amount of heat they got this season?
I’ll put it like this: and you wonder why big time college coaches put on-court success over academics.