By Chris Derrett
Only 20 seconds have passed in Baylor’s game against Oklahoma, and a lanky, mild-mannered freshman takes the ball into the lane with little between him and the basket. There is something about him that everyone can see; the Ferrell Center crowd knows it, his coaches know it and his teammates undoubtedly know it.
The question is, can he see it as well?
Always wanting to do whatever helps his team the most, Perry Jones III foregoes the open look at the basket and tries to pass to junior Quincy Acy, who stands slightly closer to the rim. The Sooners snatch the pass away and spoil the Bears’ first possession.
“We all said something to him,” head coach Scott Drew said about the play.
The critique was easy for Jones’ fellow Bears.
“Any time like that, no doubt you have to take that shot, and we have trust in him to take that shot,” senior LaceDarius Dunn said.
Jones III has to take that shot, and any open shot, because his NBA-caliber potential is just too much to waste.
Standing 6-foot-11 and sporting an estimated 7-foot-2 wingspan, Jones III is a specimen. His length says power forward, while his ballhandling and smooth midrange jumper say otherwise. In Drew’s system he is posted up on the offensive end and anchors the middle of the Bears’ 2-3 zone defense.
Jones averages 13.5 points per game and has 18.8 in four conference games. Since acclimation to the collegiate game, his free throw percentage has risen from 51 percent entering conference play to 77 percent in Big 12 contests.
In other words, he does it all.
“There’s not many things he can’t do. He can handle it, he can pass it, he can shoot it. He’s getting better rebounding and defensive wise,” Drew said.
To Pass or Not to Pass
At the Ferrell Center it’s never surprising for Jones to hear chants of “ball hog” from the Baylor faithful. The fans are simply encouraging him to do so.
Asking any NBA prospect follower about Jones yields the same answer – he can be unselfish to a fault.
Raised to be a polite young man with strong moral values and a general compassion for others, Jones has yet to establish an alter ego on the court. That spells trouble at the college level when the competition is manageable and possible to dominate, and even more concern at the next level where timid players are devoured.
“That was a weak part of my game when I first got to college,” Jones said. “It’s been working for me so far. All I can do is stay aggressive and stay hungry.”
One and done?
If Jones stays hungry, this season could be his first and last in a Baylor uniform. His offensive tear has caught the eye of scouts across the country who see raw talent in Jones’ game.
Jones looks like he might fit exactly what NBA teams are looking for. Gregg Polinsky, the Nets Director of Player Personnel and former basketball coach, said NBA scouts are not allowed to talk about underclassmen but described how scouts evaluate talent.
“You want guys that have a passion and high motive, who are instinctive to who they are as people,” he said.
For players like Jones, whose NBA position on the court is not concrete, scouts turn to the past to help predict the future.
“Many times it helps to think about a player that was like him that succeeded or failed in the league,” Polinsky said.
While Jones could be a power forward, his athleticism and his lack of weight could see him closer to the perimeter.
If Jones does go to the NBA, he would be the first Baylor freshman to jump to the league.
Signs of greatness
Every now and then he starts to show it. An outburst after throwing down a dunk. An aggressive cut to the basket on a fast break. A post up move with a strong finish, or a stepback jumper late in the game. Jones’ killer instinct is still in its infancy, but it is there.
His motivation is evident, as shown through performances like his second-half explosion against Gonzaga, on which he commented, “I just didn’t want to lose.”
No matter how much or little Jones talks, his game is screaming to the basketball world at the college level and beyond. Everyone can hear it loud and clear.