First he waited patiently as four high school teammates announced where they'd be attending college. Then he thanked more than a dozen teammates, coaches and teachers for their contributions to his success. Finally, he stared out into the crowd assembled at Portland's Jefferson High School and said, "I guess now I'll be making my choice."
With that, Jones reached for a black Washington Huskies cap and slipped it over his head, ending one of the lengthier and more secretive recruiting sagas in recent years. The 6-foot-8 forward turned down Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, Oregon and Oklahoma to join fellow Jefferson teammate Terrence Ross at Washington next season, giving the Huskies Rivals.com's 13th- and 48th-ranked prospects in the Class of 2010.
"I wanted to be close to home and like I've been saying since eighth grade, I wanted to play with Terrence Ross," Jones said. "Plus, I just feel like Coach (Lorenzo) Romar is a father figure for me."
The joint announcement of Jones and Ross makes the Huskies a clear favorite in the Pac-10 entering next season. Washington loses first-team All-Pac-10 forward Quincy Pondexter and streak-shooting wing Elston Turner off last year's Sweet 16 team, but Jones is the perfect replacement for Pondexter and Ross figures to more than make up for Turner's production.
The school that loses the most as a result of Jones' decision is Kentucky, which now has missed out on two of the nation's most talented power forward prospects in the past three days. John Calipari will surely continue to recruit former Clemson signee Marcus Thornton, but he is not the instant impact guy that either Jones or NC State-bound C.J. Leslie would have been.
More than 24,000 fans tuned in to the Oregonian's live video feed of the news conference, a number that reflected the suspense of Jones announcement. That he was going to Washington was such a tightly guarded secret that Ross himself pumped his fist, shouted and came up from behind to hug his teammate when Jones put on the Huskies cap.
Like everyone else, Ross too had been kept in suspense.