By NICK GALLO | Thunder Basketball Writer
The Thunder family grew by one on Thursday night, as the team brought the gifted, hard-working and team-oriented Perry Jones III into the fold.
With the 28th selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Thunder selected the 6-foot-11, 235-pound Baylor sophomore that the team is excited to add to the roster.
“We’re thrilled about how this draft turned out for us as a team and an organization,” General Manager Sam Presti said. “Perry Jones, obviously, is an extremely talented individual and is somebody that we feel very fortunate to be able to add to our team... We feel really strongly about his work ethic in combination with a lot of physical gifts that he has.”
Jones III was born in Winnsboro, LA but went to high school in Duncanville, TX averaged 13.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game during his two seasons at Baylor, while shooting 52.2 percent from the field. He appeared in 63 games as at Baylor, where he averaged 32.2 minutes per game. As a sophomore, Jones earned AP All-American Honorable Mention honors. Jones has five percent body fat, a 7-foot-2 wingspan and 8-foot-11 reach according to the NBA.
“His measureables at the combine were excellent,” Presti said. “He’s kind of an interesting athlete in the sense that he has quickness, he’s lean, he has explosiveness and all those things line up and blend well with things that we look for in players. We’re excited about him and we’ve taken a lot of steps as we went through the process to decide that this was the right decision, and we feel it was.”
Jones III was in attendance at the draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, and spoke with ESPN’s Mark Jones after he shook NBA Commissioner David Stern’s hand while wearing a Thunder hat.
“I’m speechless,” Jones III said to Jones. “My dream is to play in the NBA. No matter what number I got picked, I just wanted the opportunity to play… I’m just going to play hard."
Jones III has a great work ethic and is a team-first guy according to Presti. An unbelievably athletic 20-year old, Jones loves video games and to play paintball. In fact, when he decided to return to Baylor for his sophomore season, Jones and his entire team went to play paintball together to celebrate. Before enrolling at Baylor, Jones III was a five-star recruit according to Rivals and Scout and was named to the 2010 McDonald’s All-American team. The Thunder’s extremely in-depth and thorough basketball operations department had tabs on Jones III as he entered his first year at Baylor, and the team believes it has an opportunity to help him continue to improve.
“He’s another long athlete that has versatility to his game on both ends of the floor,” Presti said. “That was really important to us, having that kind of versatility defensively. So hopefully we can help him grow, help him get better. A big part of his development is going to be us putting him in positions to be successful and him putting in the work.”
Presti actually had the opportunity to attend Jones III’s very first practice at Baylor two summers ago, and ever since that time, his staff has had the opportunity to evaluate his on-and-off-court abilities. The information collected over the past two years culminated during the most recent draft process, at the Chicago draft combine, where Presti and Vice President/Assistant General Manager Troy Weaver had the chance to watch him.
“We were really impressed with the young man as a person first and foremost,” Weaver said. “He has a strong work ethic… He has a very high skill level, he’s very versatile. We just want him to come in and be Perry Jones, put his heart on the floor, bring his work ethic. Expectations are nothing but for him to come and blend in with our team and he’ll continue to move the franchise forward.”
Jones III’s numbers in both his freshman and sophomore years were very similar, but the Baylor squad increased its win total from 18-13 to 30-8. Being a part of a winning environment, playing within a team framework and adjusting to game settings to find ways to impact winning are all reasons the Thunder are impressed by Jones III. In addition, Weaver believes that Jones III has improved in two key areas after deciding to return to college after his strong freshman year.
“Just his maturity and his physical strength have improved going back for his sophomore year,” Weaver said. “The stronger you get, the more comfortable you are, the more you can expand your game and that’s what he’s done in the two years he’s been there.”
With big men like Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka and Cole Aldrich in the fold, along with versatile swing man Kevin Durant, Jones III figures to have some great leaders to learn from moving forward. In addition, the Thunder feels that Jones III will fit in with a locker room that features a wealth of high-quality people.
“He’s a humble competitor and he’s a guy that is just a genuine guy, a genuine kid,” Presti said. “I think that only helps us on the court and off the court.”
At the end of a very long day filled with millions of potential scenarios, the Thunder’s front office staff feels extremely happy with the choices it made. The draft is a free chance to improve a team every year as Presti said earlier this week, and he and his group believe that adding Jones III did exactly that.
“We felt very comfortable making the selection,” Presti said. “When we put all the information together, we felt like this was something that makes us a better basketball team.”