FAYETTEVILLE – At this Sunday writing, since March 27 submitting his name in the National Basketball Association draft, Mason Jones had not taken the irrevocably turned pro step of hiring an agent. So the Arkansas junior guard still has until June 3 keeping his options regarding either turning professional or returning to the Razorbacks for a 2020-2021 senior season.
Probably wise to keep his options open. In a normal year off the basketball year he had, Jones would turn pro without looking back other than acknowledging all the Arkansas good wishes accompanying his so obvious next career step. But this coronavirus pandemic year is the most abnormal year in most of our lifetimes.
Of paramount importance the pandemic menaces lives, exceeding 100,000 deaths worldwide including exceeding 20,000 in the United States.
Economically the shutdowns required to combat the virus’ spread affects most everything. Athletics is no exception. Sports have shut down from Little League through high school, college and the pros. The NBA shut down in mid March, as did college sports, in Jones’ case before the second round of the SEC Tournament following Arkansas’ first round 86-73 victory over Vanderbilt paced by Jones’ 22 points.
Coming off a season where the 6-5, 200 not only showed the versatility of variously playing power forward, small forward, shooting guard and even at times on the point while leading the SEC in scoring and leading the nation in free throws attempted and free throws, of course Jones normally should turn pro. But Jones, the overweight kid in high school the major colleges shunned but former Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson wisely recruited as a sophomore junior college transfer in 2018-2019, had just this never completed 2019-2020 season really to answer questions the NBA scouts must have.
They must have them. Because Jones isn’t appearing in the spate of mock drafts predicting the 2-round June 25 draft. Had Jones’ success occurred last year he would have had opportunities to answer lingering questions. He could have met with NBA personnel and participated in workouts under their scrutiny. All of that, even watching tape of postseason workouts is forbidden NBA teams for now in the nationwide suggestion and in many states mandates for folks to stay home.
It still may well behoove Jones to try his draft fortune off his blockbuster season. But an additional year of NBA prep under Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman, a longtime former professional coach in the NBA’s minor leagues and the NBA itself including head coach of the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings, plus another year on UA scholarship is a nice option to weigh. Particularly if June approaches and it appears Jones might not be drafted at all with pro opportunities overseas still iffy because of the pandemic’s threat.
Arkansas sophomore shooting guard Isaiah Joe, so far not submitting his name to test the NBA waters, was potentially listed as the 30th pick in the second round of CBS’ mock draft. If he stays healthy, and is able to find weight room access back home in Fort Smith with the Razorbacks facilities SEC mandated to be closed, Joe seems in line to be drafted higher in 2021 after coming back for his junior Razorbacks season.
Musselman’s expressed intention of increasing Joe’s versatility by playing him on the point some and getting him physically stronger to go with his underrated defense and one of the best 3-point shots in college basketball, ought to make Joe a hot 2021 draft committee.
Presumably, we all hope, in worldwide safer conditions than we experience now.