Misconception

Immediately after Terrence Jones announced his decision to attend the University of Washington, UK Coach John Calipari called Jones and laid a guilt trip on him, which forced Jones to reconsider and eventually sign with UK.

The Facts

On April 30, 2010, Terrence Jones sat in a black tuxedo in front of an array of college caps and announced during a press conference at his high school (Jefferson H.S. in Portland Oregon) that he would be attending the University of Washington the following fall semester. By doing so he was set to join his high school teammate, Terrence Ross, who also declared for the Huskies during the same press conference.

However unlike Ross, Jones did not sign a Letter of Intent but instead left it as a verbal commitment. It soon became apparent that Jones was not completely sure about his decision. This led to a firestorm of speculation and uncertainty.

Three weeks later, Jones ended the suspense when he announced that rather than Washington, he instead would attend the University of Kentucky. Jones signed scholarship papers with the school but chose not to sign a Letter of Intent.

Teammate Terrence Ross beams and his parents applaud while Terrence Jones announces for Washington

Rebuttal

Percy Allen of The Seattle Times was the reporter of record who followed Jones' recruitment throughout. Allen noted in an article after the press conference was completed that Jones did not sign his letter of intent. Wrote Allen:

"The news conference is over, but the drama may just be starting.

Almost everyone has left the Jefferson High gymnasium, however, Terrence Jones is huddled with his parents in the corner of the gymnasium and folks are keeping their distance. Seems like a major pow-wow.

I spoke to Jones and I can tell this recruiting stuff hasn't been fun for him. On what is supposed to be a joyous occasion, he sighed heavily and said he was happy that it was over.

Unlike Terrence Ross, who was decked out in Husky purple and said he made his choice a month ago, Jones didn't know where he was going until the moment he picked the UW hat.

I believe that.

It also looks as if he needs a little more time to make sure he made the right decision."

("Terrence Jones Still Hasn't Signed a LOI to Washington," by Percy Allen, The Seattle Times April 30, 2010.)

Unfortunately, Allen also wrote the following, which set off conspiracy theorists all over the college basketball landscape:

"Kentucky coach John Calipari called Jones after his announcement and Jones was on the phone for a very long time. About 15 minutes.

Reading body language, Jones seemed pained.

He told me, 'You hurt thousands of people just as much as you make people happy.'

("Terrence Jones Still Hasn't Signed a LOI to Washington," by Percy Allen, The Seattle Times April 30, 2010.)

Terrence Jones talks on the phone after the press conference. (Reportedly this was to a radio station, KJR-AM.)

This information and the quote fed the idea that Calipari had called Jones after the press conference and guilted him into reneging on his pledge to Washington. To his credit, Percy Allen wrote a followup the next day where he clarified that the quote about hurting people was not from John Calipari to Terrence Jones (as many readers misread) but from Terrence Jones to Percy Allen. Allen also noted that he made a mistake when he claimed that Calipari had called Jones. Wrote Allen:

"Seems like there was some confusion in the last post about this sentence: 'He told me, 'You hurt thousands of people just as much as you make people happy.''

That's Jones talking to me. The 'He' is Jones that's his quote and not Calipari's.

. . .

I erred in the previous post when I wrote Calipari called Jones. I don't know who called whom. I know Jones was on the cellphone for a long time and a Jones family member told me he was talking to Calipari."

("Maybe Not Cold Feet, But Terrence Jones Cools on UW," by Percy Allen, The Seattle Times May 1, 2010.)

A few days later John Canzano of The Oregonian followed up and further clarified who called whom. According to Canzano:

"Also, there were erroneous news reports about Kentucky coach John Calipari calling Jones in the wake of he announcement, too. Jones insists he called Calipari, not the other way around.

'I called all five of the coaches that I didn't pick,' he said."

("The Recruitment of Terrence Jones Leaves a Sour Taste," by John Canzano, OregonLive May 5, 2010.)

Followup

Despite the relatively quick corrections, this didn't prevent critics of Kentucky and John Calipari from accusing him of pressuring Jones into dropping Washington in favor of Kentucky, a belief that continues to this day.

Looking back, it was obvious that Jones should never have agreed to participating in the press conference before he was completely sure and comfortable with his decision. However he likely felt pressured by the fact that his teammates were all announcing together.

It was the athletic director at the school, Mitch Whitehurst, who planned the press conference, including purchasing hats which were aligned around the table when each player chose his school. (Some observers thought that the black Washington hat Jones ended up choosing was designed to match his black tuxedo and black shirt, but that turned out to be completely coincidental.)

A few days after the press conference, Jefferson's high school coach Pat Strickland was interviewed. He still thought that Jones would choose Washington eventually, however he did suggest that he didn't think Jones had really made up his mind at the time of the press conference. He also seemed to admit to second thoughts about any future press conferences.

So what happened during after he picked up the UW hat that made him have doubts?

"I got a sense that most people have gotten because I haven't directly asked him about some of these things. I think he really didn't and I kind of felt this going into it too that he really was unsure until he stepped up there to that table and saw those hats and actually picked one. If you look at the replay, it looked like he was going to grab the Kansas hat first. I really feel that he didn't have a clear idea on what he wanted to do. My feeling was that it was always between Washington and Kentucky."

Will you ever have an event like this at the school for one of your players?

"I would advise not only my players, but any player if you have a press conference just make sure you're ready to have make decision if you're going to call a press conference. Just make sure. You got more time and you don't have to throw a date out there to please people. This is about you. It's not about nobody else. It's about you so take your time. As long as you meet your timeline, you don't have to give a date that you're not ready for."

("Terrence Jones 'Still Committed to Washington' Says Jefferson High Coach" by Percy Allen, The Seattle Times May 5, 2010.)

Both Coach Strickland and Jefferson's Athletic Director, Mitch Whitehurst, continued to stand behind the belief that Jones would sign with Washington and made public comments to that effect.

In an article soon after the press conference, Whitehurst was quoted as saying "Terrence is going to the University of Washington because that's what I heard him verbally say," Whitehurst said. "He said he wanted to go with his boy Terrence Ross and Terrence Ross is at Washington so I'm assuming that he's going to do exactly what he said. Follow his boy and follow his decision."

When Whitehurst was asked about the possibility of another press conference, Whitehurst shot it down. "We're just going to keep it the way it is," Whitehurst said. "He's going to Washington. We're not going to redo this." (above quotes from article "Jefferson High AD thinks Terrence Jones will sign with UW" by Percy Allen, Seattle Times May 1, 2010.)

Jones was obviously nervous and emotional before, during and after the press conference

The press conference was something Jones himself admitted that he regretted. In an article with Yahoo! Sports Jason King prior to the beginning of the 2010-11 season.

I didn't have a decision made yet," he said, "but, at the same time, I was ready to be done with it. It was a confusing situation. It's something I felt I was put on the spot to do. I wasn't ready to do that."

Jones lined up the hats of the schools he was considering on the table before him and then picked up the one with the Washington logo. Those in attendance cheered as Jones slipped the cap onto his head, but his mother realized something wasn't right.

"My mother felt that I didn't want to go to Washington and that I wanted to go to Kentucky," Jones said. "She thought I was scared. She said, 'I don't think you want to go to Washington. You need to quit listening to other people.' It was definitely the hardest decision I've ever had to go through in my life."

Jones said he phoned Washington coach Lorenzo Romar after the press conference to let him know his decision wasn't final. He then called Calipari, who had been shocked to hear that Jones had committed to the Huskies.

("Kentucky Home for Jones" by Jason King, Yahoo! Sports October 13, 2010.)

Asked by King how Jones felt five months after his decision was made, Jones said: "I'm so glad that I stopped listening to other people and started listening to myself. This [Kentucky] is where I'm supposed to be."

As far as what Jones and Calipari discussed when they first talked, Calipari was asked this during a radio interview with 95.5 The Fan in Portland.

"Well we thought that he was coming with us and when he said 'Washington' we were like 'what just happened?' That was the first thing.

Then he called about an hour later and said 'Cal, I made a mistake. I don't know what I was doing.' That is when the thing went like 'You what?'

So we talked to him and said that we are going to do whatever you want. I am holding your scholarship. At one point I said, 'Look, if you want to go to Washington then go to Washington, and if you want to come with us, come with us. Just make a decision so that we can all move on.'

But I felt bad for him to be honest with you. Because he is 6'9" everybody thinks that this guy is a grown man. They have emotions and they still, the peer pressure wanting to please everybody. Terrence is a pleaser. He is not one to be confrontational. He is not one that . . . He is a pleaser. He wanted to please me, he wanted to please Lorenzo [Romar], wanted to please his teammates. That is what he is.

But I will tell you what . . . I think that we have got a player that fits as well as anybody that I have ever recruited."

("Interview with John Calipari" by 95.5 The Fan (Portland, OR), May 24, 2010.)

Postscript

Jones started two years for UK and went on to have an up-and-down career at UK. His first season the team made the Final Four, and he considered entering his name into the NBA draft after one year of college but chose to return where he paired with freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to form a formidable front-court.

His second season Kentucky went on to win the 2012 National Championship. Jones left UK for the NBA after his sophomore year on a high note, where he was chosen #18 overall in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft.

Incidentally, Jones' former high school teammate, Terrence Ross, was drafted #8 overall in the same draft. Percy Allen had interviewed Ross prior to his freshman year at the University of Washington and asked about what happened during the press conference. Ross replied, "Everything worked out for the best. He's in a good position. I'm in a good position. It's no hard feelings. We're still brothers. We still talk all the time. We both had to do what we had to do." ("Terrence Ross on Terrence Jones: 'We're Still Brothers'" by Percy Allen, The Seattle Times October 11,2010.)

But Jones didn't leave the University of Kentucky without first following through on the impulse to please others. During the Final Four game against rival Louisville, Jones had run out of bounds after a loose ball and inadvertently knocked over a Louisville cheerleader. He didn't realize until after the game that she was injured and had required stitches to stop a cut to her head. Upon hearing this Jones vowed to bring her flowers. He made good on this promise by travelling to Louisville to present them to her in person.

Another recipient of Jones' goodwill was a UK college student who went by the nickname of "Stone Cold Willow" who Jones befriended at UK on the outside basketball courts. After Jones announced that he was turning pro and started to see some cash, he helped pay for much needed dental work for his friend.

Jones was happy to assist others. From a Louisville cheerleader he didn't know to helping a friend he met at school.

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