Will Louisville First be Chris Jones Last?

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It’s been a week ago today since our Cardinals played the best twelve minutes of basketball this season in a comeback win against Pitt. And it’s been a week since I witnessed one of the most heated exchanges of the season between Coach Pitino and Chris Jones.

With 12:15 left in that Pitt game Chris was pulled after he had missed a lay-up. As he was walking towards his spot at the end of the bench you could see the frustration on his face and see him saying things under his breath with Coach Pitino right behind. Once Chris sit down Coach kneeled down in front of him and let him know just what he was thinking. The tension between coach and player was very obvious and I cringed watching this interaction.

Coach Pitino made it very clear in his post-game press conference that night how upset he was with Jones. And there was no sign of Chris in the post-game locker room. I was sure that we would see the fallout from this before the game against NC State but Chris did start and played in the loss to the WolfPack. Ironically it was the worst game the Cardinals have played all season. Chris led all scorers with 20 points in the loss and it didn’t seem like there was any hangover from his bad game against Pitt. But maybe there were issues and we just didn’t see it.

On Tuesday night we got word that Chris Jones had been suspended. The press alert read as follows:

“University of Louisville guard Chris Jones has been suspended from the men’s basketball team for a violation of team rules. Jones will not travel with the team for the Cardinals’ 7 p.m. game at Syracuse on Wednesday. He is averaging 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and at team-leading 3.7 assists for Louisville (20-5, 8-4 ACC).”

After the interaction I witnessed between Coach Pitino and Chris last week the news tonight didn’t surprise me.

Chris Jones when fully engaged and committed to his team is one of the most formidable point guards in the country and makes the Cardinals one of the best teams in the country. When he’s not things don’t go well for him or his team.

Chris Jones is a complex guy with a complex past. He grew up on the mean streets of Memphis where he had to be tough and strong looking out for his single mother and his sisters. Growing up in these rough environments and surrounded by dysfunction often leads to a fight or flight mentality with no other coping skills learned. He was described as scrappy, undisciplined and unpredictable in his early basketball days.

This led to several setbacks for Chris. He had academic issues at Melrose High school having to leave after his junior year for Oak Ridge Military Academy in North Carolina. He was dismissed from that school after an altercation with a teacher. He came back to Melrose finished school then committed to Tennessee to play college basketball. He never made it due to NCAA sanctions and not qualifying academically. He eventually landed at Northwest Florida College.

During the time he spent at Northwest Coach Steve Forbes turned a player known as a high tempered dictator into a team player. Forbes has been quoted saying: “He’s the most highly competitive person I’ve ever coached. Ever,” “It can be his biggest strength and his biggest weakness. He will fight every fight.”

It’s hard to escape your past but it looked like Chris Jones was a guy that was going to do it. Or at least it did until that final twelve minutes of that Pitt game last week when he was arguing with his coach, pouting on the bench and not cheering for his team.

Chris Jones has been given many chances in his life and in his basketball career. We could be watching his last chance play out in front of us. Will he let his past continue to dictate his future or will he make the best of the time he has left here at Louisville. Coach Pitino said on Tuesday night “we move on without him”. The Louisville program has always been bigger than the player. Louisville First… Let’s hope it’s not Chris Jones last