Friday’s game against the Portland Pilots at the Rose Garden, the home court for the Portland Trailblazers, will serve as a de facto homecoming for the freshman forward from Portland, Ore. After signing with a school so far away, he’s ready to head home for a game in front of friends and family.
“It will mean a lot,” Jones said. “To have a chance to play in front of my mom and my grandma as a college player and how much I’ve improved since high school, just to prove how much harder I’ve worked. I’ve improved a lot on my shot and playing harder.”
As he was being recruited by UK head coach John Calipari, Jones was told there was a chance a nonconference game could be scheduled near his home if he committed before a certain date when the schedule would be completed. When he was sure UK was the right fit for him, he made sure to tell Calipari quickly to try and get the game on the schedule.
But Calipari seemed significantly less excited about Jones’ trip home.
“Terrence thinks he’s home to vacation,” Calipari said. “That’s why he thinks he’s home. He doesn’t know we’re playing a basketball game because he’s never done this before. He’s already lined up everything he’s going to do by the minute when he gets home, probably hasn’t listed the game.”
Jones committed to the Washington Huskies on a TV special, then reopened his recruitment. Shortly after, he signed with the Cats. Still, he’s not worried about being booed by anyone who wanted him to stay closer to home.
Sophomore guard Jon Hood, a Kentucky native, gets to play in front of friends and family during nearly every home game. But he said Friday’s game will probably be more meaningful for Jones, because his family won’t have as many opportunities to watch him play.
“I know he’s excited about going home,” Hood said. “Anybody would be.”
It’s just his second game as a college player, though, and Calipari is worried about how he’ll deal with the emotions and pressure of playing so close to home.
“He and I talked about it,” Calipari said. “I said, ‘I have yet to have a guy go home and play well, so good luck.’ ”
Jones said the key to playing well will be focusing on the game and not thinking about who’s in the stands – even though he admitted “a lot” of people will be there to watch him play.
“Hopefully I play and prove (Calipari) wrong,” Jones said. “I really want to play and show them the whole team. Me with new faces and show them how we are as a team.”