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April 19, 2012He wasn't one-and-done. He nearly didn't come to Kentucky.
But in the end, both those decisions paid off for Terrence Jones. Like his four underclassmen teammates, Jones announced on Tuesday night that he would be leaving for the NBA. After two years and a national championship, his career as a Wildcat came to a close.
"I just felt it was a great opportunity to be able to make the next step," he said. "I just felt I was ready for it. To be able to play on a special team like this, it's hard to come by. I felt I was ready to make that move. It came down to a decision that me and my family made."
Jones, who is projected as a lottery pick, strongly considered leaving for the NBA after his freshman year and even put his name in the draft. But as he did after committing to Washington, he changed his mind. Jones came back to UK for his sophomore year as the preseason Southeastern Conference Player of the Year.
Things weren't always easy for Jones in his sophomore campaign. His scoring and rebounding numbers dipped from 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a freshman to 12.3 and 7.2 as a sophomore, respectively. He missed two games with a dislocated finger in December and deferred, at times, to younger teammates.
In the end, it was all worth it.
"Terrence Jones made a good decision to come back," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "But it was his decision, like Doron's. Had an opportunity to leave, decided to come back. Has taken his game to another level. You're talking about a 6-9 athlete who can play and guard three positions and put his head on the rim."
Finally making the decision to leave was difficult, Jones said. He insisted that it was a close call, and wasn't completely sure until Monday night. His love for the school and the coaching staff, particularly Calipari, made things more complicated.
"He tells me how he feels about everything," Jones said. "I always accepted it, took it in. I knew that he knew a lot more about the game than me and I respected that."
He finished his career with 1,064 career points. Despite being overshadowed by teammate Anthony Davis, Jones is actually eleventh on the school's all-time blocks list. He had 140 blocks in 76 career games, which puts him fourth in school history in blocks per game behind Davis, Sam Bowie, and Jamal Magloire.
Jones entered the season as a preseason national player of the year candidate, but a flotilla of freshmen and the return of sophomore guard Doron Lamb made him just the fourth-leading scorer on his own team.
That was never a problem, Jones said. He tried to improve his energy and found new roles to help.
"To come back and be on a special team like this, I just wanted to help us be as good as we can," he said. "I appreciate everyone on the team - freshman and sophomores - nobody caring about who got the credit, who was scoring the points. Everyone playing together is what made us special."
Jones keeps coming back to the word 'special' when he talks about his time at Kentucky. There's no other school like it, he says.
He almost missed out on it completely. Now, he can't imagine what would have happened if he had made any other decision.
"Being a part of something special like this is something I won't forget," he said.