Terrence Jones’ transformation on the court this past season was remarkable. From his “showboating” in the Kansas game that drew ire from the affable Dick Vitale, to his sulking on the bench during the Indiana game and subsequent finger injury, Jones had a rough non-conference run. Yet, Terrence found himself on the road in the SEC, stringing together humble and hungry performances that steadied his squad and propelled them into the postseason. And, along the way, Terrence became a fan favorite.
Think back to November and December, and the odd late-night car wreck involving Terrence and Stacey Poole Jr. Picture Terrence pouting on the bench in Bloomington. Recall the pages upon pages of angry comments and tweets about his performances. T. Jones was far from a fan favorite in these times. Yet, with the New Year came a new Terrence. He kept his head down, did the right things, and occasionally threw up a mini-flex. Since the end of the season, the real T. Jones has practically been a politician, signing babies and bellies, delivering flowers to a cheerleader he accidentally tackled in New Orleans, and even throwing up three goggles atop a mechanical bull at Hillbilly Days in Pikeville.
The Big Blue Nation loves a comeback story. Many call us unforgiving, naive, and overly critical of the players we love, but Terrence’s story reveals our softer side. Maybe it was the glamour shot session before the LSU game in January that endeared Terrence to us, or maybe it was the way in which he brought a spark to seemingly every tip for the last two months of the season. We’ve said this a lot recently, but Terrence really has come full circle this season. After his freshman year, he knew he wasn’t ready for the NBA–physically and mentally. A year later, he’s playing the best basketball of his career, and in the eyes of the Big Blue Nation, he’s practically a saint.
We give a lot of ourselves to these players: time, tears, and travel. Thank you, Terrence, for showing us that it matters.