|'I opened up my whole arsenal,' Jones III says of his big game against Kansas State. (Getty Images)|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Now we know what motivates Perry Jones III.
A Mohawk, for one. That's the radical haircut the father of Baylor's sophomore post has promised to get after watching the best game of his son's career Thursday at the Big 12 tournament. Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers, too. Perry's mother Teri Jones was waving the candy from the Sprint Center stands like they were bones for a dog.
That's where the Perry Jones story gets complicated. It shouldn't take a 20-year old NBA prospect's favorite candies to get him going. That, and the word "dog" has been associated with Baylor's 6-foot-11 forward on more than one occasion this season.
"I really don't know," Teri Jones said Thursday when asked about her son's inconsistency. "I know he does pray. Then I send him Bible verses and he has the team to motivate him as well. He tries to get on the court and think about just playing basketball. I know when he comes off the court his mind is going."
And going and going. All the criticism and projections and hopes and dreams were tabled for an afternoon in Baylor's 82-74 quarterfinal win over Kansas State. PJ3 had just played his best college game. A career-best 31 points went along with 11 rebounds. His teammates fed him. He attacked the basket and shot threes (making both he took).
|More on Kansas State-Baylor|
|More college hoops coverage|
At halftime Brent Musburger mentioned that even his noted color man, Bob Knight, had become a Jones believer.
"I opened up," Jones said, "my whole arsenal."
That it has taken until the end of his sophomore year for Jones to utter those words remains a part of the mystery.
Jones should be in the NBA by now. He was projected to be a lottery pick had he come out last year after his freshman season. Jones should be there because the family has troubles keeping a roof over its head.
It's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the family is an inspiration having gotten to this point. Teri has a serious heart condition and the family doesn't have insurance. Ideally, she should be getting treatment at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, a Baylor source said. A transplant is a last resort but also impossible at the moment.
Jones should be in the NBA because almost a year ago to the day he was declared ineligible by the NCAA and suspended for six game. The association ruled his family had taken extra benefits from Jones' former AAU coach. The benefits turned out to be a loan, since repaid, to cover the family's mortgage.
Who needs that aggravation?
"Yeah, my teammates reminded me [of the suspension] when I got on the plane," Jones said. "They all gave me a round of applause for being able to show up here."
The one-and-done rule hasn't changed a basic NBA tenet: The league still drafts a lot on potential rather than actual performance. That leads to a lot of half-boy/half-men prodigies who aren't quite ready for the money, the fame and the expectations.
Maybe that's why Jones stayed in school when every other metric told him to leave. The half-boy isn't ready to become a whole man. He is still able to be motivated by such stuff as family bets, candy and uniforms. In fact, the entire Baylor squad looked liberated Thursday by adidas' nuclear yellow head-to-toe unis.
When Perry made the decision to stay at Baylor for his sophomore year, he felt like a load had been lifted. That's when the son suggested that bet to his dad. Each time Perry III scored 30, Perry Sr. would have to get a Mohawk haircut.
"I didn't think I'd have to wait this long," dad said.
Now we know that Perry's arsenal includes an incredible twisting reverse layup that gave him his career high with 5:44 left. Why now? Desperation has something to do with it. These are the final days of PJIII in college. While his game regressed statistically -– 13.9-point average to 13.7 -- Thursday proved it could finally becoming more refined.
"He's one of those guys that the more you build them up, the better he is," Bears coach Scott Drew said.
Baylor has won 26 games and still could be categorized as one of the more disappointing top-10 teams in recent years. (It came into the game ranked 12th.) Jones may have appeared on their schedule poster, but he was also the poster child for those problems.
At times, he has been a team guy to a fault. Timid was more like it. In four combined games against the league's top two teams (Kansas and Missouri) Jones averaged less than nine points and turned it over a total of 10 times.
But for one afternoon all the crap Baylor and Jones have been through this season was forgotten. If these Bears play to their potential -- a big if -- they could do some damage in the NCAA tournament. That 2-3 zone, that massive back line that looks like it can stretch defensively sideline-to-sideline. With Jones in the middle of it, Baylor looks, well, motivated.
"I don't worry about the draft and what's going to happen after this season," Perry III said. "I just worry about winning a national championship in college."
The statement sounds genuine. If Jones has good reasons for stiff-arming the NBA to this point, you have to believe him. For a brief moment we were able to see why those pro scouts are drooling over him like they're working on a Jolly Rancher. "He loves them," Teri reminded.