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Q&A With Terrence Jones

Rockets.com discusses draft labels, growth and championship experience with the rookie forward

HOUSTON - With training camp less than two weeks away, Rockets players are already back on the Toyota Center practice court, working to get ready for the upcoming season. To find out what they’ve been up to this offseason, Rockets.com’s Jason Friedman will sit down with each player over the days to come to discuss what they’re working on, what their goals are, and how they’ve been spending the summer both on and off the court.

Taking his turn in the hot seat today is rookie forward Terrence Jones. What follows is a transcript of their conversation.

JCF: You were the third of the Rockets’ three first round picks this past summer. I think, quite naturally, most fans have a tendency to base their early expectations of player performance on where said player was drafted. As a result, I think you really surprised a lot of people with your strong summer league showing. What was that experience like for you?

TJ: From the beginning, I just wanted to come in and try to prove myself, knowing it was a fresh start for everyone. I didn’t care about what happened in the draft, I just knew I wanted to go out and try to perform the best I could and fortunately I did well. Since then I’ve just been trying to improve and build off what I did in Vegas, keep improving and getting better for the season.

JCF: A lot of guys talk about coming in with a chip on their shoulder because of where they were drafted. Did you feel similarly or were you just happy to be in the NBA?

TJ: That’s definitely something I used as motivation just because, like you said, people do put you in a certain category based on where you were drafted and that’s not how I want to be defined. The truth is I have to go out and perform just like the players that were drafted ahead or behind me do, and just like the players who are always in the league have to do. So I’m just focused on doing that right now.

JCF: This roster is shaping up to have quite a few guys who have the ability to play multiple positions. Do you think of yourself as having a specific position or do you just think of yourself as a basketball player?

TJ: I’ve just been doing the same thing I have my whole life which is just trying to be the best basketball player I can and helping my team at whatever position I’m playing. I just want to do whatever the coach needs at that position. I think that’s what helps me as a player and I just want to continue with that and get better at every position and learn from all the players and coaches we have here.

JCF: Where do you see yourself being able to help this team the most early on?

TJ: Right now I don’t know. I’m just a rookie, so I don’t really know what we’re going to be doing and what type of system we’re going to have. I just want to help improve the team as much as I can and have fun, enjoy this experience. Whether we’re running or slowing it down, I just want to help.

JCF: What have the coaches been focusing on when dissecting your play?

TJ: Coach McHale told me he really enjoyed how I played in Vegas and he wants me to work on being able to knock down open shots. But really they just want me to get better at everything. Again, being a rookie, I know I have so much to work on.

JCF: A big part of what makes you such an intriguing prospect is the fact you can be such a physical presence down low while also possessing the skills that give you the ability to make plays out on the wings as well. Can it be occasionally difficult for you to find the right balance between being a banger and being a perimeter playmaker?

TJ: Well (playing out on the perimeter) wasn’t part of my role at Kentucky; I was inside. We had a team where everybody sacrificed, so we didn’t really worry too much about taking full advantage of what everyone was capable of, we just did whatever was best for the sake of the team. And for that team, the best thing I could do was concentrate on doing the dirty work down low. Right now, I’m just doing a little bit of everything and it’s a new challenge because I wasn’t used to doing all this in college.

JCF: What’s the No. 1 thing you use for motivation?

TJ: I’d definitely say the people who doubt me. Also, I do what I do for my family, the people who love me, and for my fans who expect and hope for my success. I use that as motivation to get better and improve every day.

JCF: Now that you’ve had some time to reflect on it, how do you think your experience at Kentucky – a two-year stretch that culminated with a national championship – shaped you as a person?

TJ: I think I just matured. I matured in terms of how I approached the game, how much I focused. Losing in the Final Four the year before, wanting to come back and win and then actually doing it, that was incredible. I had a chance to leave for the NBA after my freshman year but I came back because I wanted to win a championship. To actually do it, to reach that goal, it was a great feeling and I know I grew up a lot in the process.

JCF: Were there ever times when you questioned your decision to come back to school for one more year?

TJ: All the time, but only up until the season started. Once the season started, I was focused on that and just wanting to help my team win.

JCF: What’s been your favorite part of the offseason so far?

TJ: Just being in the NBA. It’s just a blessing. The whole situation: moving, being in Houston and meeting all the fans, making my mom proud, making her happy and just trying to take care of her as much as possible. That’s been the best thing.