For his final year of college basketball, Terence Jones knew exactly what he wanted in a program.
The former Lake Clifton guard wanted to play for a school that would offer more exposure for him than he received at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He wanted to step into a situation where playing time was available from Day One. And he wanted to play for a coaching staff that knew how to win.
In the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Jones found all that and more. The 6-foot-2, 187-pound player committed to the Blazers at the end of a visit to the Conference USA school Saturday night.
“It felt good” committing, Jones said Sunday. “I liked being around the players. I got a good vibe from the players. It just felt like a family. The coaching staff is great and … [in] talking to them about their style of offense, I know my role. And the town was nice. The town really supports the basketball team. That’s pretty much what I wanted to be around.”
Jones, who attended Lake Clifton until 2007 and graduated from Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., in 2008, spent the past four years of his life at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. He redshirted as a freshman and became an integral part of the Islanders’ rotation every season after that. As a redshirt junior during the 2011-12 season, Jones averaged a team-high 13.7 points, earning honorable mention All-Southland Conference honors.
Jones said he was incredibly thankful for his time at Corpus Christi and acknowledged that playing for the Islanders “helped me a lot.” But because he redshirted and kept pace academically, Jones put himself in position to graduate on time and have one year of eligibility remaining, provided the school he transferred to had a graduate program that Corpus Christi did not. Jones’ academic – and athletic – success made him a hot commodity.
“[Recruiting] this year was a lot harder [than it was coming out of high school] because I had so many schools because of my situation as a fifth-year senior that didn’t have to sit out and could play right away,” Jones said. “That’s what a lot of schools are looking for.”
UAB, DePaul, Penn State, Tennessee Tech, Tulsa and Virginia Tech were among the programs interested in Jones. Receiving interest from so many high- and mid-major-plus teams was flattering for the former Lakers star.
“I kind of wished [I had this kind of attention] coming out of prep school, but it felt good. I realized I can play at this level,” Jones said. “I’m kind of blessed to get a chance to go where I should have been from the start. With one year left, this is my last chance to do it. I wanted to go somewhere I’m going to play and expose my talent. I didn’t really want to go anywhere I wasn’t going to play that much. Basically, [it was] a choice of what’s the best fit for me.”
Playing for a new staff at UAB also intrigued Jones. The Blazers last month hired Jerod Haase, a first-year head coach who spent the past 13 seasons under Roy Williams at North Carolina and Kansas. Jones also bonded with former Maryland assistant coach Rob Ehsan, who joined Haase’s staff after one year at Virginia Tech.
“Coach Haase … played on a championship team at Kansas with Paul Pierce,” Jones said. “Coaching with Roy Williams, I know he has that experience and I know he’s a proven winner. It’s a young staff, which I really like. It’s a great group of guys to be around. Talking to them on my visit, pretty much the staff came from Maryland and Virginia Tech. They’ve been around basketball at ACC programs that have been winning. I kind of felt like it had all the right pieces in place, from the head coach all the way down to the last assistant.”
Jones will graduate from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on May 12 with a bachelor’s degree in communication. At UAB, he will pursue a master’s degree in health education. Jones said he’s excited for the chance to further his education and his basketball career.
“UAB was the perfect situation,” he said. “Everybody’s happy -- my mom, my stepdad, my family. They’re happy and excited that I’m graduating. That’s big for my family, and that’s big for me, graduating and getting that degree. For them, knowing that I’m going to get my master’s, that’s even better. It’s my life-long dream to play professional basketball. I’m happy to go to a bigger stage and get my master’s."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun