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On The Rise

Terrence Jones making his mark in sophomore season

NEW ORLEANS - The NBA’s All-Star weekend is about a lot of things. It’s about entertainment and extravagance, yes, but at its core perhaps its defining characteristic lies in its unique ability to bring out the fan in everyone. There’s just something about walking around and seeing one hoops legend and after another that has a way of transforming otherwise unflappable adults into giddy children again. 

Terrence Jones is not immune to that phenomenon. Houston’s second-year power forward delivered 14 points and six rebounds during a tidy 16 minutes of action in Friday night's Rising Stars Challenge -- the first participatory All-Star weekend experience of his young career. The name of Friday's event could not be more fitting in his case given his remarkable rise this season as part of a Rockets team that has announced itself as a serious contender in the uber competitive Western Conference. Jones has been a key cog in Houston’s dynamic starting lineup that ranks among the most potent starting units in the NBA, using his burgeoning all-around skill set to buoy a group that has produced a sparkling net rating of +11.6 when it has been the floor.

Jones, of course, is no stranger to the spotlight. He shares a locker room with two superstars in Dwight Howard and James Harden. He’s won a national title at one of the most prestigious college basketball programs in the country. And yet, the 22-year-old fully admits to being star struck during his first couple days in New Orleans.

“It's still hard to believe that I’m even a part of this right now,” he said this morning after a light practice with his new teammates on Team Grant Hill. “I’m just happy and excited. Being a part of All-Star, something I’ve watched my whole life growing up, it’s an amazing feeling right now.”

Less than 12 hours later, after he had helped lift his club to a 142-136 victory in Friday night's defense-optional competition, Jones said his All-Star weekend inclusion still had yet to sink in. 

"I don't think it will until it's all over," Jones said. "Seeing all my ex-teammates and people that I played with in middle school, it's just a dream come true.

"This is just the first step. I'm just a young player trying to keep getting better every day and hopefully I'm going to keep reaching my goals."

Jones also says his first All-Star experience has been made even more memorable since he’s been able to share it with Howard and Harden, who of course will be playing in the main event Sunday night.

“They’re a big reason I’m here,” he says. “To be here with those guys and just to be here representing my team and all my teammates who aren’t here, it’s a great feeling. I couldn’t be here without those guys. They got me a lot better, they’ve helped me learn so much just from watching them and interacting with them during games and just getting knowledge from them has helped me and my game so much.”

As for the national title Jones won while at the University of Kentucky, the fact that championship was claimed during his sophomore campaign is not lost on the second-year forward. And though that small detail is far more interesting tidbit rather than meaningful statistical measure of what’s to come this season, Jones does see similarities in terms of approach and ambition when sizing up his past and present teammates.

“The atmosphere and the focus around the team, and the work that’s being put in after practice and on days off, it’s really showing,” he said when asked if he sees any parallels between his title-winning team with the Wildcats and the club he now calls home. “It’s showing how serious guys are and how important this season is.

“We want to do something big this year.”