Jones focused on the game before the game


Terrence Jones laughs with Doron Lamb after the second half of UK’s win over ETSU at Rupp Arena on Friday Nov. 12 , 2010. Photo by Britney McIntosh

For Terrence Jones, a game is more than a buzzer-to-buzzer affair.

At least, that’s what UK wants it to be for him. It starts well before the game, when he is (hopefully) not napping. It continues in the minutes preceding tipoff, when the coaching staff watches Jones’ warm-ups and relays a report to head coach John Calipari. And it continues throughout the game in how Jones interacts with coaches – whether or not he’s making eye contact is a good indicator of his body language.

All this has been deemed important to how Jones eventually produces – which for UK is essential, considering the freshman forward has taken 24 percent of all UK shot attempts this year.

And the notion that preparation is as important as production is a new one to Jones. It simply didn’t matter that much what he did before games last year.

“It’s just high school, so, we usually won,” Jones said.

Another aspect of preparation that’s new is studying opponents, and himself, on tape.

“We never watched film in high school,” Jones said. “We just showed up to the JV game at halftime.”

Jones has had a few games with slow starts this year, including in the last game against Mississippi Valley State, in which he scored four points while getting into early foul trouble in the first half.

Jones, and the entire team, will have to make sure to focus against Winthrop – not necessarily because of the opponent, although Winthrop did beat Jacksonville, who beat Florida – but because of the upcoming holiday.

“It’s a scary game, because we’re going home for Christmas,” Calipari said. “And don’t think everyone in that locker room — managers, players, coaches — is not thinking, ‘What time does this game end?’ That’s just how it is.”

Moments earlier, Jones had talked about looking forward to being able to go home to Oregon for the holidays.

“I’m leaving (for home) right after the game,” Jones said.

Before they leave, though, they have to take care of business against an opponent they are favored to beat. Jones wants to come out strong in the early minutes. The sight of Jones on the bench is not one UK wants to see.

“What he hasn’t learned is that there’s not another game at 3. There’s not another game at 7. We’re not going to McDonald’s to get a burger and jag around,” Calipari said. “(It’s not), don’t worry about warming up, just go play, and if you don’t play well in the first half, well…”

While Jones has had those games, Calipari hopes they prove lessons to be learned.

“If he learned a lesson against North Carolina, then it was worth losing,” Calipari said.

Adjustments of all kinds have been part of Jones’ learning curve. He said having to worry about getting teammates involved and get his own points, rather than just exclusively worry about his own stat line, was different from his high school days.

Having defenses scheme to limit him – and having those schemes work – has produced new obstacles.

And the adjustments means Calipari has been on him to improve in a variety of ways.

“It’s going to be different each game, something I’m doing wrong that he wants me to change,” Jones said. “I’m comfortable with it, I believe whatever he says.”

But does he believe it because he has to believe his coach or because he genuinely thinks it will help him improve?

“Both,” Jones said. “I know if I don’t do it, I’m not going to be playing. And I believe it’s making me a better player.”