By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
LEXINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€ Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones has his homecoming all mapped out.
ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be some time hanging out with his mother and his grandmother. A stop by his old high school. Maybe at least one home-cooked meal.
Coach John Calipari hopes his talented 6-foot-8 forward can squeeze in a couple of hours for FridayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game against Portland while heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s at it.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I told him that I have never had a player go home and play well, so good luck,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said with a sarcastic shrug.
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only slightly kidding. The NCAAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decision to rule freshman center Enes Kanter permanently ineligible for receiving improper benefits from a Turkish club team has left the Wildcats with a major hole in the middle that Jones may be required to fill.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a job heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll accept, even if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not the one he signed on for. When the Portland native signed with the Wildcats last spring Ã¢â‚¬â€ a decision he made only after verbally committing to Washington at a televised press conference Ã¢â‚¬â€ he figured he would could float around the perimeter while Kanter did the dirty work inside.
Though Kanter is appealing the NCAAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ruling, his absence leaves Jones as KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most athletic big man. He showcased flashes of his versatility in an 88-65 win over East Tennessee State last Friday, joining former Kentucky star Sam Bowie as the only freshman to post a double-double in his debut. Jones finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in one very eye-opening performance.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Terrence was a beast,Ã¢â‚¬Â said senior center Josh Harrellson.
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have to be if Kentucky wants to survive the kind of stern early season test the Wildcats avoided last season, when they reeled off 19 straight wins to start the year behind the play of freshmen stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
Kentucky is just as young, if not younger, this season. And without Kanter the Wildcats arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t as deep, making next weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s journey to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational anything but a vacation.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is going to be a learning situation for us,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have to figure out what we do, how hard we have to play.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lesson Calipari has tried to impart on Jones for months, even if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s meant making Jones a scapegoat in practice when things go wrong. The Ã¢â‚¬Å“tough loveÃ¢â‚¬Â approach has worked because Jones knows the barbs from his coach arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always personal.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look at it the wrong way,Ã¢â‚¬Â Jones said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look at it like heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s yelling at me because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mad. I just look at it as heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wanting me to do better to better the team and he expects it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Wildcats will need Jones and the rest of the freshmen to grow up quickly if they want to hang with veteran-laden squads like Oklahoma and No. 17 Washington out in Maui.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Right now we are the youngest team out there,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Whether itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Portland, or any of the three teams we will play in Maui, we are going to be the youngest. There are going to be things that will happen and I am just going to have to tell them to go make a play. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s where we are.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Kentucky made plenty of plays during its season-opening win over East Tennessee, knocking down 13 3-pointers and putting the game away with a 16-0 second-half run.
Yet that was in the comforts of Rupp Arena. The only Wildcat who will feel at home in the Rose Garden on Friday is Jones, who led Jefferson High to three state championships on the same floor.
Though Jones never considered signing with Portland, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seen the Pilots plenty of times. Usually heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d go to watch some big-name school come in to play only to walk out of the arena shaking his head after Portland pulled off the upset.
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wary, and he expects the Wildcats to be too. Calipari knows his team canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t afford to look past the Pilots toward the challenge awaiting in Hawaii, Jones included.
Kentucky isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t big enough, old enough or talented enough to simply walk out on the floor and dominate.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have got to be a gang-rebounding team,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just have one player gobbling up every ball. We donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have that yet.Ã¢â‚¬Â
They might not get it if KanterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s appeal is upheld, though the Wildcats have found a use for him as what Harrellson called Ã¢â‚¬Å“the best practice player in America.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Under NCAA rules Kanter is able to practice with the Wildcats until a decision is made on his appeal. His presence has helped Jones, Harrellson and Eloy Vargas become more physical. The way Harrellson figures it, if he can slow down Kanter in practice, doing the same thing in a game should be no problem.
He might be one of the few who view it that way. Kentucky dropped a spot in the latest AP poll after the initial decision on Kanter came down, a move Harrellson took personally.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“People are going to look at it like, Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Oh Enes canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not going to be good this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ or something like that,Ã¢â‚¬Â Harrellson said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to find ways to win. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to find ways around that and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to do everything we have to do.Ã¢â‚¬Â