In the third installment of our Nittany Lion Basketball player profile series, things take a decidedly more negative tone. We profiled Tim Frazier here, and David Jackson here, both of whom showed improvement through the season in 2009-2010 and met or exceeded expectations. Not so with Mr. Andrew Jones...
Ahh the curious case of Andrew Jones. He's teased Penn State fans with flashes of brilliance in all three of his years at Penn State. His biggest problem? Say it with me now:
Jones dazzled fans during Penn State's 2009 NIT Championship run, averaging 10 points and 8.2 rebounds on the way to Penn State's first national tournament title, setting the expectations for 2010 fairly high for the junior center. Many thought he could become Penn State's elusive "big man" or at least a protege of Jamelle Cornley.
Unfortunately for Penn State, that never materialized in 2010. Not only did Jones not improve on his 2009 production, he regressed statistically in almost every major category.
While it's never fair to hang a team's struggles on one player, there's no question that had Andrew Jones played even as his 2009 self in 2010, the Nittany Lions might well have won a few of the close games that seemed to elude them so often in 2010.
What went wrong for Jones in 2010, and what can we expect from him in his senior season of 2010? Well the short answer is, no one has any idea.
Jones got off to a decent start statistically in November, averaging 5.8 points per game, slightly above his career average, and 6 rebounds per game, also slightly above his average. He had a regrettable habit of disappearing in important games, however. In Penn State's losses to UNC-Wilmington and Tulane in Charleston, he scored a combined 6 points, though he did pull down 15 boards. In both games, a score here or there by Jones could have made the difference between win and loss, but alas, Mr. Jones did not rise to the challenge.
In December, things picked up for Jones. He average 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, and looked like he'd gotten things together just in time for Big Ten season.
Then things went the other way.
As Penn State went on a 12 game losing streak to open conference play in December and January, Jones came off the tracks in a big way, averaging only 3.9 points in those games. Take out his 12 point effort against Minnesota in the Big Ten opener on December 29, and that figure drops to 3.1. The rebounding wasn't much better, either, dropping to 4.25 during the streak.
All this led to a benching from Coach Ed Dechellis, alongside fellow underachiever Jeff Brooks.
While Jones did finish strong, helping Penn State to a 3-4 finish behind an average a hair over 8 points a game, the damage was done, and Penn State's season was lost during his swoon in January.
The Good Things
-The obvious good is that Jones DID finish strong in 2010, and his resurgence coincided with Penn State's best basketball of the season. We've seen him put together stretches like that before, however, so to expect that production to continue into 2010-2011 is probably premature.
-I'm probably pulling at straws here, but its possible some of the struggles Jones had in 2010 were part of growing into Jamelle Cornley's role. In his first two seasons, he was never, "the man" down low. He'd play stretches without Cornley, but in all the high leverage moments, Cornley was Penn State's man in the post. Jones probably struggled with those expectations, but by year's end he at least looked comfortable, if not promising at the five spot. Maybe he's finally grown into the role, albeit slower than Penn State fans rightly expected.
The Bad Things
-Basically taking the entire month of January off was unacceptable. Everyone has bad games, but to struggle that hard for that long is the kind of thing that can ruin seasons, as you could ague Brooks and Jones' struggles did in 2010. If it happens again in 2011, Jones will join a long line of monumental PSU basketball disappointments.
-While expectations for Jones were perhaps a bit too high on the offensive end, the decline in his rebounding numbers was scary. By his junior year, it's an element of his game that should have come naturally and didn't. I can deal with the lack of a scoring touch to a degree, but the poor rebounding put an undue amount of pressure on Talor Battle and the guards to clear the ball in the defensive end.
-The consistency has to improve. Had Jones even played his averages in many of Penn State's losses, the Nits might have won a few more games, and perhaps even made the postseason. Instead, they had one of their worst years in a long time. They just couldn't overcome his disappearances. If Jones can be half the guy he was in his best games in 2010 in 2011, Penn State will be in the thick of things for an NIT or maybe NCAA berth. If he can't, well, it's going to be a long winter.
Year In A Youtube Video