Terrence Jones
Is Jones new yardstick?
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 25, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — TNT KaTropa’s Terrence Jones could be the PBA Commissioner’s Cup’s new import yardstick and how he measures up to Barangay Ginebra’s resident star Justin Brownlee will be known when their teams clash at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on June 12.

Jones, 27, made an auspicious PBA debut in TNT’s 102-87 win over NLEX at the Ynares Center in Antipolo last Wednesday, compiling 41 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in 36:56 minutes. He’ll be back on the court to battle Alaska at the Big Dome tonight.

Brownlee, 31, is widely considered the PBA’s import yardstick. He’s led Ginebra to three titles, twice in the Governors Cup and once in the Commissioner’s Cup. Brownlee won Best Import honors when Ginebra took the second conference crown last year.

Jones played two years with the University of Kentucky varsity before moving to the NBA where he was the Houston Rockets’ first round pick in the 2012 draft. In his second season with the Wildcats, Jones teamed with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to lead Kentucky to the NCAA championship under coach John Calipari. He played for Houston, New Orleans and Milwaukee in six NBA seasons, earning over $8.3 million. Jones is still remembered for blocking LeBron James’ dunk and scoring 36 points to power New Orleans over the Cleveland Cavaliers, 124-122, in 2017.

The PBA is Jones’ second international stop. The first was in China where he averaged 22.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists with the Qingdao Eagles last year. It’s not often that an NBA first round pick plays in the PBA. Since the PBA opened in 1975, there have been less than 45 NBA first rounders among over 700 imports to play in the league. Included in the cast are Arnett Moultrie, Renaldo Balkman, Dickey Simpkins, Scott Burrell, Leon Wood, Glenn McDonald, Byron Houston, Dennis Hopson, Michael Young, Chris Morris, DerMarr Johnson, Cedric Ceballos, David Thirdkill, Wes Matthews, Mario Bennett and Rashad McCants.

TNT team manager Gabby Cui said what makes Jones special isn’t just his Kentucky and NBA pedigrees but also his leadership, attitude and coachability. “You’d think being an NBA player, he’ll want to be treated like a star,” said Cui. “Not Terrence. We’re lucky to have him. Coach Mark (Dickel) and coach Alton (Lister) worked with our US contacts to bring him over. It’s in between NBA seasons so Terrence was available. He arrived about two weeks before the start of the conference. Terrence is here to improve his game, share his knowledge, learn from the experience and win a championship. He’s young, coachable. He listens, wants to make his teammates better. He’s lefthanded but can also finish with his right. He’s versatile. He can do multiple things. He can shoot the three, drive to the basket, post up, make the extra pass, play defense, rebound.”

Off the court, Cui said Jones likes to hang out with his teammates. “We did four days of bonding at Splendido just before we played our first game this conference,” said Cui. “We ate at Balay Dako, went around Tagaytay and did things as a team. We got ourselves ready for the games. Jayson (Castro) and R. R. (Pogoy) are all praises for Terrence. We all think he’s a cool guy. With Terrence on board, our goal is to win the championship.”

Jones is here with his girlfriend Ashley. Next month, his 8-year-old son Ajani who’s half-Filipino will fly in from Portland for a visit. “That’s another reason why Terrence is here,” said Cui. “He wants to know what it’s like in the Philippines because his son is half-Filipino. He wants to learn the culture and show his son around. His son is athletic, plays football and basketball.” Cui said NBA veteran Craig Hodges is in town on a one-month contract with TNT as a shooting coach. Another NBA veteran Lister, who lives here, is a TNT assistant coach.

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