April 11, 2011
Of all the underclassmen debating whether to enter the NBA draft or not, none had greater incentive to turn pro than Baylor freshman Perry Jones.
He had been projected as a near-certain top 10 pick. He must serve a controversial five-game suspension at the start of next season for accepting extra benefits while still in high school. And there's a chance his draft stock could plummet next year if he can't find a way to parlay his immense potential into greater production.
For all those reasons, it came as a big surprise that Jones announced Monday he will return to Baylor for his sophomore season. The 6-foot-11 forward acknowledged it was a "hard" decision, but insisted that deferring NBA riches for another year was a small price to pay for another season with his Baylor teammates.
"This is the decision I think is right," Jones told reporters on Monday. "The whole college experience with my teammates. That was a big part of this decision. Having fun with them. Just enjoying everything, just enjoying life with them. I do not want to cut that short and just leave out of nowhere. I want to have another good time like I did this year."
By putting his NBA future on hold for another year, Jones further weakens a draft that was already shaping up to be one of the worst in recent memory. He joins North Carolina's John Henson and Tyler Zeller, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Kansas' Thomas Robinson as likely first-round picks who have instead decided to return to college rather than risk turning pro before the looming NBA lockout.
The return of Jones also ensures that Baylor will begin next season with the Big 12's premier frontcourt. In addition to Jones, explosive forward Quincy Acy and mammoth center J'mison Morgan return for their senior years and highly touted recruit Quincy Miller has the potential to make an instant impact.
"We are most excited about just being able to spend another year with Perry the person," Baylor coach Scott Drew told reporters. "As the basketball player he has a special God-given ability in size and talent, but what really makes him special is the type of person he is and that is why his teammates were jumping up and down when he said that. Quincy's jaw dropped."
Dismal point guard play and poor shot selection from shooting guard LaceDarius Dunn contributed to a disappointing 18-13 season for Baylor this past year, but the Bears have some newcomers hoping to shore up those positions. Elite recruit Deuce Bello appears to be the heir apparent at shooting guard, while junior college recruit Pierre Jackson should battle with incumbents A.J. Walton and Stargell Love for minutes at point guard.
If Jones is going to improve his draft stock next season, he likely must be more aggressive than he was as a freshman. Jones averaged 13.9 points per game and shot 56 percent from the field, yet he didn't get the ball enough, sometimes because he was too deferential and other times because Baylor's rudder-less offense too frequently ran through Dunn.
The frightening aspect of this decision for Jones is that he's never been a truly dominant player even in high school.
If he takes that next step and cements his draft status with an exceptional sophomore season, this decision will be lauded as a wise risk. If he puts up modest numbers and NBA scouts sour on his chances of ever becoming a dominant pro, there will be those who question whether coming back to school was a mistake.