Jones III declared ineligible before tourney loss
By Chris Derrett
The fourth time won’t be a charm for Baylor men’s basketball this year.
Hoping to make their fourth straight postseason appearance, the Bears found out Sunday their season is finished without an NCAA tournament or NIT bid.
The NCAA tournament was widely accepted as a nonpossibility for the Bears unless they were able to either make or win the Big 12 tournament final round. Still, the NIT appeared plausible even after the Bears’ loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament first round, but the NIT selection committee felt otherwise.
Sunday officially marked the end of a tumultuous week for Baylor, which is awaiting the NCAA’s decision to reinstate freshman Perry Jones III.
The NCAA declared Jones was not an amateur and therefore could not play against the Sooners. Because Jones’ mother accepted three loans from his AAU basketball coach while he was in high school, and Jones’ coach paid for Jones to travel to San Diego and see a preseason professional football game, the NCAA said Jones vacated his status as an amateur. Not being an amateur would leave Jones ineligible to play.
Six hours before the game, Baylor received the news.
Jones’ teammates were taken aback, like sophomore point guard A.J. Walton, who said he had never encountered such a situation.
“Not even middle school, high school, AAU ball, none of that,” he said.
“It was shocking, but we just didn’t come out and play like we needed to.”
A look inside the locker room after Baylor lost to the Sooners revealed a team still stunned by the day’s events. Baylor administrators present at the game, including athletics director Ian McCaw and president Ken Starr, echoed the team’s feelings.
Both McCaw and Starr said they hoped Jones’ last minutes in a Baylor uniform have yet to pass.
“I’m hopeful we’ll see Perry Jones on the court again for Baylor,” McCaw said.
McCaw was also asked to discuss whether he was surprised by the NCAA’s decision to remove Jones’ eligibility shortly before game time.
“I’d rather not,” he replied.
As much as Starr would have liked the process to move along before postseason play, he admitted Baylor could only appeal and hope for the best.
“We can only do what the circumstances permit,” Starr said.
The circumstances left the NIT committee looking at a team that suffered a blowout loss to a 14-18 Oklahoma squad and lost its second-leading scorer in Jones. Jones averaged 15.6 points per Big 12 contest this season and took almost 20 percent of the Bears’ field goal attempts in conference play.
Also a factor in Baylor’s 2011-12 season is the possibility that Jones could declare himself eligible for the NBA draft. If he does, he is projected to be a top five overall pick.
The day following Jones’ ineligibility, the story sparked national conversation as analysts discussed whether the NCAA’s actions were consistent with other high profile college athletes, specifically at Ohio State and Auburn.
All of those questions are yet to be answered as Baylor awaits the NCAA’s decision regarding Jones.