The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Terrence Jones’s return bolsters Kentucky’s veteran presence

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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There was never a concern about Kentucky being short on talent next season, but one tweet on Saturday afternoon gave them another dose of it along with valuable experience for the 2011-12 campaign.

Freshman swingman Terrence Jones announced via Twitter that he's returning to UK for his sophomore year. That news came a day after fellow frosh Brandon Knight made it known that he was keeping his name in the draft. Still, with Jones's return, it means that along with classmate Doron Lamb, John Calipari will bring back a healthy portion of last year's elite recruiting class to go along with the one that's coming in.

The 2011 crop for UK includes three players — power forward Anthony Davis, small forward Mike Gilchrist and point guard Marquis Teague — who were all ranked in the Top 5 in Rivals.com's final Top 150 rankings. The fourth member of the class is — shocking — another McDonald's All-American in Canadian power forward Kyle Wiltjer.

But what Jones coming back ensures for Kentucky is that it will have a solid veteran core to work around, which might help avoid some of the growing pains — especially on the road and in SEC play — that the Wildcats endured this spring, despite ending up in the Final Four.

Along with Jones and Lamb, Calipari will have perimeter threat Darius Miller back as a senior. The return of Jones makes UK an even more solid national championship contender, while those expectations could get another bump if junior defensive stopper DeAndre Liggins pulls out from the NBA draft pool before Sunday's 11:59 p.m. deadline and comes back for his senior year.

The fact that Jones is in fact coming back does look a bit stunning on the surface. {YSP:MORE}

After averaging 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds as a freshman, the 6-foot-9 Portland, Ore., native was pegged as a likely lottery pick. But from the sound of recent reports, he was not guaranteed to be one due to a variety of reasons.

To at least maintain his status as a mid-first round prospect, Jones will have to show improvements in a couple of areas this upcoming season. He was pretty inconsistent — and, at times, invisible — on the offensive end, especially down the stretch run of the season. A rough stretch of road games during the SEC season appeared to have quite a lingering effect on him, though his oozing potential and ability to play four different positions had pro scouts drooling much of the way.

Coming back is a risky proposition for Jones, but it could also pay off some. There's the obvious risk of injury, and another inconsistent campaign such as the one that just ended could raise some more red flags in the eyes of some NBA brass. But if he emerges as a leader and becomes a dependable, dominant force on a young, loaded team, he could vault himself into a potential Top 5 pick and future franchise asset.

Either way, it goes down as a big day for Kentucky and college basketball as a whole during the maligned one-and-done era, with yet another young star opting to forego big bucks to play college ball for another year.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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