A lot has been made of Baylor's Perry Jones and his sub-par performance against Missouri last week. When it comes to Jones, it seems like everyone -- and rightfully so -- has a level of expectation for him that outweighs his production on the floor. Look at the guy. He’s the Lexus that’s in great shape sitting on the used car lot at a Ford dealership. Whether he’s at Baylor or in the NBA, he’s going to have the best body of the bigs on the floor. That’s just how it is. With his size and athletic ability, come the spotlight and the weight of expectations.
Allow me to offer up my take. Perry Jones isn’t completely comfortable with being the leading man. It’s not in his personality to be a dominant, nasty performer. He’s a humble kid, a kind spirit and from my dealings with him, just an all-around nice guy. Does that mean he’s soft? Nope. It simply means his personality doesn’t match his size and talent level.
Throughout Jones’ basketball career -- at least since high school -- he’s been the kid with the expectations. Every now and then he’d hang 25 and 10 blocks in an AAU game just to let you know he was capable of doing it. However, he never struck me as a guy who was committed to doing it each time out or even wanted to do it at that level. I’ve always believed that his personality was that of a supporting actor, not a leading man. Flashback to the McDonald’s game his senior year. He took just four shots, played 15 minutes and didn’t have a single rebound or block in a game where 211 points were scored.
There’s a reason why he wasn’t the top-rated player in his class (He was No. 7). He had the biggest upside and maybe the best frame to work with but those of us who watched him closely knew the deal. Now, Jones is on the biggest stage of college basketball and the same story is playing out. He’s not producing nightly commiserate with his talent. I’m here to tell you that it’s no big surprise. He’s not wired up to live up to those expectations. Once you realize that, his up and down -- and sometimes-incomplete -- efforts are more understandable.
In high school, Dwight Howard dominated. All the time, the same way and while he beasted you with a smile, his goal was to dunk everything he could. Jared Sullinger punched the clock. Tyler Hansbrough; same effort and result each time out. They played to their DNA. Jones is doing the same thing.
Here’s one for you: forget Greg Oden’s NBA career because it’s been riddled with injury. Think back to his championship game performance against the Florida Gators when he was the best big on the floor and that included Joakim Noah and Al Horford. Oden was the consummate gentle giant. The difference between Oden and Jones is that Oden had someone pushing his buttons at an early age.
Oden played -- heck he grew up with -- Mike Conley. The little sparkplug point guard made sure Oden delivered. Together they won and Conley fed him the basketball. I’m not sure Oden wouldn't have taken the same approach as Jones does if Conley didn’t help shape his development.
Don’t assume that just because a player is big and talented that he loves his size and standing in the game. Sometimes the biggest kids are the ones who lack the most confidence. Andrew Bynum couldn’t look anyone in the eye until his senior year.
On the surface, there’s no reason why Jones doesn’t get double-digit points against a vertically-challenged Missouri frontline. Myron Metcalf of ESPN video blogged about Jones this week and his perceived “softness.” My take is simple: we, meaning those who watch, may want Jones to be more dominant than Jones does. On the surface that’s very odd. Maybe it is, but the bottom line is that Perry’s personality often dictates his play.
When he begins to show outward self-confidence and carry himself with a different level of swagger, his game will ascend. Until then, understand he’s more passive than aggressive. It’s who he is and until you understand his personality, you’ll struggle watching his game.