“Terrence Jones wants to please me in the worst way. They want some affection from you. They want you to — if you're not on them enough, they'll do something to make you get on them to let you know whether he still cares about me. Those are kids that, you know what, I'll text them, just want you to know I love coaching you, I love you, kid. They'll hit me back too, I love you, Coach. They need that sometimes. You don't think they do. They do need that,” said Calipari.
The UK coach admits he sometimes has to get on Jones to “focus more,” a problem he has not had in NCAA Tournament play.
“I believe if he'd have played like he's playing right now at the beginning of the year throughout the year, which is a hard thing, he and Anthony (Davis) would have been mentioned for Player of the Year. They both would have. But it's okay because the talent he has is shining now,” Calipari said. “And he's fine with it. But I'm proud of him.”
Jones understands his role changed on Kentucky’s talented team this year, something he did not mind because he hopes that leads to a national title. The No. 1 Wildcats play Louisville on Saturday night in New Orleans, and if they win would play either Kansas or Ohio State Monday for the championship.
Jones says he knows he’s part of something special, and so do his teammates.
“I believe we do just the way we go every day at practice and game, just going as hard as we can. If we feel it's getting a little sloppy, then we just huddle together and try to just make the day a lot better by just going as hard as we can,” Jones said.
Jones is averaging 12.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game going into Saturday’s game. He’s shooting 50.1 percent from the field and has 64 blocked shots, 51 assists and 46 steals. He shared his thoughts on a variety of things as the Cats prepare for the Final Four:
Question: With the enormous amount of attention Davis has received this year, including his own billboard in New Orleans, how has this team kept that from being a problem?
Jones: “We don’t care about none of that. We only care about winning as a team. Nothing individually matters. That’s pretty much how we do it. We just prepare for each game knowing we need every player to win it.”
Question: Could that individual attention be a problem on some teams?
Jones: “Yeah. We just like each other too much for any of that, and are proud of each other’s success. We are just happy for one another. That should be every team, but we just don’t care about any of that.”
Question: How much did the summer workouts, especially the ones with the NBA players that came to Lexington during the lockout, help this team?
Jones: “I think it helped start us off knowing we needed each other. If we did it one by one, we were going to get destroyed by those players on defense. On offense, we had to do something to free each other up or we weren’t going to win. We started winning those games and beating them, the best players in the world, just because we were doing it together. We knew from that point that we were going to have to do it together.”
Question: How do you handle the huge expectations at Kentucky?
Jones: “We just try to make it as less pressure as possible by keeping to ourselves and staying as a team and not worrying about what is being said on the TV or what is being said on the Internet and just make sure we take it one game at a time. Last year our coach would let us use what they said on the TV as motivation because they would have us picked to lose or just picked to be done after that game. This year we have been just worried about our team and what we can do to get ourselves better.”
Question: How much does Darius Miller mean to this team with his play off the bench?
Jones: “Big difference just because he can come in and do so much for us. He can come sub for about any position and just try to make an impact and get a mismatch for us. Just shoot, drive. It just really helps open up the court when it comes to him bringing out a big man and taking him or posting up a smaller dude or taking him to the hole.”
Question: Is the freedom Calipari gives you off the court something players appreciate?
Jones: “I think it helps us become closer. It is freedom but he makes sure that guys do it together. He wants you to go somewhere with one or two guys so that you are safe.¿It just helps us become a more closer family.”
Question: How much did last year’s Final Four experience help you this season?
Jones: “The experience helped me a lot just because it pushes all the guys that returned to step it up a notch just to get back there.”
Question: What role did your grandmother play in your life?
Jones: “She means a lot to me.¿Just being raised by her, my aunt, my mom, my sister. She taught me a lot and is a big influence in my life. Just always listening to her. Just getting experience and listening to what she has been through has been good.”
Question: Were there times she had to be hard on you?
Jones: “She has always been the discipline part of my life. If I ever was in trouble, she always wanted me to learn from my mistakes after I¿did them. She was hard on me and loving at the same time.”
Question: Was she someone to push you into sports or worry more about other things?
Jones: “My aunt taught me sports and pushed me into sports, not here.”
Question: Why a tattoo honoring your grandmother?
Jones: “Because she is a special person that made me the person I¿am today. I don’t know how my life would be today without her. I¿just did something special for her. She will be in¿New Orleans. She comes as much as she can, but she told me she would for sure be there.”
Question: What has fueled your postseason play?
Jones: “Just being more aggressive and trying to attack the rim on offense and defense to create breaks and get us out and going with fast paced offense and trying to push it and take at least three hard dribbles or make a play myself. I just want to get us going.”
Question: Did you set expectations for yourself too high by talking about coming back to win a national title and be the No. 1 pick in the draft and how has it been living up to those expectations?
Jones: “It has been good. Coming back from an injury (in December) and trying to play the most important part of the season as good as I can has been great. Us being on the road we are on right now, we have a great chance.”
Question: Did you ever feel you see expectations too high for yourself?
Jones: “No. I think as a basketball player you are always supposed to set expectations high. That builds your confidence and just helps you play better.”
Question: Is your confidence any different from this time a year ago?
Jones: “It is just a different situation. Last year we were the underdog and everyone was expecting us to lose almost every time we had a game in the postseason. We were using that as motivation and trying to use that as an advantage to prove them wrong. This year we are more likely to be picked to win and we had to go out and not feed into anything other than just how we have been playing and just play as hard as we can.”
Question: What does this team use for motivation this year?
Jones: “Win the games as much as possible and take it game by game and not put too much into it.”
Question: Did it ever frustrate you when you hurt your hand in December that a lot of people didn’t want to believe the injury was the reason for the problems?
Jones: “No. I was not listening to anything like that. I never heard that really. I was just trying to get better and was frustrated that I couldn’t play. With it being my dominant hand, it was just hard not to try and do anything rough or anything like that because it was popping out so much. I didn’t really care about anybody saying anything because I knew how I felt.”