Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones has his
homecoming all mapped out.
There'll be some time hanging out with his mother and his
grandmother. A stop by his old high school. Maybe at least one
Coach John Calipari hopes his talented 6-foot-8 forward can
squeeze in a couple of hours for Friday's game against Portland
while he's at it.
"I told him that I have never had a player go home and play
well, so good luck," Calipari said with a sarcastic shrug.
He's only slightly kidding. The NCAA's decision to rule freshman
center Enes Kanter permanently ineligible for receiving improper
benefits from a Turkish club team has left the Wildcats with a
major hole in the middle that Jones may be required to fill.
It's a job he'll accept, even if it's not the one he signed on
for. When the Portland native signed with the Wildcats last spring
- a decision he made only after verbally committing to Washington
at a televised press conference - he figured he would could float
around the perimeter while Kanter did the dirty work inside.
Though Kanter is appealing the NCAA's ruling, his absence leaves
Jones as Kentucky's most athletic big man. He showcased flashes of
his versatility in an 88-65 win over East Tennessee State last
Friday, joining former Kentucky star Sam Bowie as the only freshman
to post a double-double in his debut. Jones finished with 25
points, 12 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in one very
"Terrence was a beast," said senior center Josh Harrellson.
He'll have to be if Kentucky wants to survive the kind of stern
early season test the Wildcats avoided last season, when they
reeled off 19 straight wins to start the year behind the play of
freshmen stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
Kentucky is just as young, if not younger, this season. And
without Kanter the Wildcats aren't as deep, making next week's
journey to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational anything but a
"This is going to be a learning situation for us," Calipari
said. "We have to figure out what we do, how hard we have to
It's a lesson Calipari has tried to impart on Jones for months,
even if it's meant making Jones a scapegoat in practice when things
go wrong. The "tough love" approach has worked because Jones
knows the barbs from his coach aren't always personal.
"I don't look at it the wrong way," Jones said. "I don't look
at it like he's yelling at me because he's mad. I just look at it
as he's wanting me to do better to better the team and he expects
The Wildcats will need Jones and the rest of the freshmen to
grow up quickly if they want to hang with veteran-laden squads like
Oklahoma and No. 17 Washington out in Maui.
"Right now we are the youngest team out there," Calipari said.
"Whether it's Portland, or any of the three teams we will play in
Maui, we are going to be the youngest. There are going to be things
that will happen and I am just going to have to tell them to go
make a play. That's where we are."
Kentucky made plenty of plays during its season-opening win over
East Tennessee, knocking down 13 3-pointers and putting the game
away with a 16-0 second-half run.
Yet that was in the comforts of Rupp Arena. The only Wildcat who
will feel at home in the Rose Garden on Friday is Jones, who led
Jefferson High to three state championships on the same floor.
Though Jones never considered signing with Portland, he's seen
the Pilots plenty of times. Usually he'd go to watch some big-name
school come in to play only to walk out of the arena shaking his
head after Portland pulled off the upset.
He's wary, and he expects the Wildcats to be too. Calipari knows
his team can't afford to look past the Pilots toward the challenge
awaiting in Hawaii, Jones included.
Kentucky isn't big enough, old enough or talented enough to
simply walk out on the floor and dominate.
"We have got to be a gang-rebounding team," Calipari said.
"We can't just have one player gobbling up every ball. We don't
have that yet."
They might not get it if Kanter's appeal is upheld, though the
Wildcats have found a use for him as what Harrellson called "the
best practice player in America."
Under NCAA rules Kanter is able to practice with the Wildcats
until a decision is made on his appeal. His presence has helped
Jones, Harrellson and Eloy Vargas become more physical. The way
Harrellson figures it, if he can slow down Kanter in practice,
doing the same thing in a game should be no problem.
He might be one of the few who view it that way. Kentucky
dropped a spot in the latest AP poll after the initial decision on
Kanter came down, a move Harrellson took personally.
"People are going to look at it like, 'Oh Enes can't play,
they're not going to be good this year' or something like that,"
Harrellson said. "We're going to find ways to win. We're going to
find ways around that and we're going to do everything we have to