PJ3’s return worth the wait for No. 9 men’s hoops

By Stephen Hawkins
Associated Press Basketball Writer

WACO — The wait is almost over for preseason Big 12 player of the year Perry Jones III to get off the end of the Baylor bench and back in the game.

Even though Jones returned to the Bears, instead of becoming their first one-and-done player and going to the NBA, he still hasn’t been playing because of an NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits before he got to Baylor.

“It’s tough, but I make the best of it,” Jones said. “As long as I can support my team, I’m cool with it.”

Jones has to watch only two more games before he can finally make his sophomore season debut.

Without Jones, the Bears are still 3-0 and have climbed to No. 9 in the AP poll.

“Just being on the practice squad, being on the scout team, they pretty much are making me proud,” Jones said. “I see the guys going out and producing pretty well. … They don’t need me.”

Well, then the Bears will just be that much better after Jones is finally eligible to play again Nov. 29 against Prairie View. That will be the last of six consecutive home games for Baylor to open the season, and allow Jones to make his season debut at the Ferrell Center before a game at Northwestern.

“I’m just definitely looking forward to take it to another level,” Jones said.

Baylor has rare back-to-back games this week, Tuesday against South Carolina State and the following night against Texas-Arlington.

“We’ve got a lot of new guys, but they’re adjusting very well,” senior forward Quincy Acy said. “It says a lot about our team chemistry. You know, we’ve got great chemistry off the court, and it’s transferring out on the court.”

Acy (12.7 points, six rebounds a game) is one of four Baylor players averaging double-figure scoring. The Bears are led by freshman forward Quincy Miller’s 18 points a game.

“We’re having fun out there. … We’re playing the game we love,” Acy said, before a deadpan response that drew a huge laugh. “Then Perry gets back. I mean he’s pretty good. So it should be fun, man.”

The 6-foot-11 Jones averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds a game while making 55 percent of his shots as a freshman last season.

But Jones missed the Bears’ opening and only game in the Big 12 tournament last March after the NCAA upheld a six-game suspension. That tournament game counted as part of his suspension, and was the last game of the season since there was no NCAA or NIT invitation for the Bears.

The NCAA penalized Jones for a trip to California in August 2010 to attend an NFL preseason game with his AAU coach before he began classes at Baylor. The trip was provided by an unidentified NFL player who also gave Jones’ parents three separate 15-day loans, all of which were repaid.

While Jones hasn’t been able to play, he has been on the bench for games and involved in every other team aspect — from practice, to meetings and hanging out with his teammates off the court. He is not surprised at the Bears’ early success.

“No egos, everybody likes to share the ball. We are a family, on and off the court, just doing everything off the court, going out to eat on our own as a team, watching movies as a team,” Jones said. “Just all the little things, and also having fun while we’re out there, not stressing too much, not thinking too much, just playing basketball.”

Jones said he will be all right waiting another week before he can finally get into a real game because of how the team is playing.

When that time finally comes, he knows he has to make sure not to get too excited.

“I don’t want to go out there and do something like getting in foul trouble,” Jones said. “I know I’m going to be excited because of the first game back, but I’ve just got to play smart and play like I know how to play.”

For Baylor, the wait should be worth it.