Posted Jan 25 2012 10:10AM
The search has reached deep into a second season. Coaches and scouts have been looking for the consistency to match the talent, for reality to catch up to the potential, for a solution before decisions have to be made in June.
The NBA is anxious for Baylor's Perry Jones to break through once and for all and become the versatile, athletic potential All-Star that executives and scouts see. Jones is the ultimate Draft tease, good enough for the top five. He might be in the 1-2-3 conversation, if this was strictly about talent.
But with his apparent lack of passion for the game, he's more likely standing somewhere around 5 to 10. A vague place for such a skilled big man, yes, and that's the point. The talent makes the pros want to believe in him. The mindset makes the pros want to strangle him.
One executive said late last season, before Jones decided to stay in school, that "I don't debate whether he's a good guy and a special talent. I just don't think he's got basketball in his top five things to do today. Maybe he changes."
There is new hope now. A different executive watched Jones and said, "He seems to be playing with more zip" and "It appears there was some maturing."
That's something. That's everything, actually.
In what projects to be the deepest selection pool in years -- depending who stays in and who returns to school -- no one has greased feet like Jones, capable of quickly moving in either direction on Draft night. For Jones to move up on June 28, all it takes is maintaining an aggressive style of play, much like he did Monday in a marquee game at Kansas. It would be worth millions. All it takes is a good interview at an individual workout. Someone will want to fall in love with him and believe.
"He's been forced to grow up," said Baylor product Ekpe Udoh, the Warriors' second-year power forward/center and a Jones friend. "His mother got sick at one point. He's really grown up and starting to put together a good year. It's exciting to see him play like that. You know he can play like that. He just has to put in that effort every night."
Again with the effort.
"Some games, he's amazing," Udoh said. "He can really do that every night. I just try to tell him, 'Every night, you've got to keep going.' "
Jones, 20, is Anthony Randolph in appearance and potential. He has a similarly wiry build at 6-foot-11, and at 235 pounds still needs to fill out to bash around with NBA power forwards. He has the ability to dribble around people in the open court, an athleticism and skill set that, to Jones' backers, suggests he can do damage inside or out. But the talent evaluators want to see more moments like he flashed Monday as No. 3 Baylor fell from the ranks of the undefeated with a loss at No. 7 Kansas.
His stats -- 14.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 54.5 percent from the field, 31.2 minutes -- are nearly identical to last season. For Jones, this is about showing progress in a different way.
"I think Perry's more physical this year," Baylor coach Scott Drew told the Sporting News. "He is stronger, bigger, more mature. He wasn't one of those 24-year old freshmen. He's a younger guy, and as he continues to develop he'll be able to take more advantage of things inside. And he's shooting the three now. He's definitely a different player. I think it's just all age and maturity. That's what the NBA sees -- they see every year he gets closer and closer to it."
The NBA sees that. But the decision-makers in the NBA still remain concerned about what they don't see.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
Anderson Varejao fights for the rebound and comes down awkwardly on his left leg and would sustain a leg injury.
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