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Although he left the door slightly open for a return to Arkansas, it sounds like Mason Jones is content with beginning his professional career.
Speaking publicly for the first time since announcing his decision to enter the 2020 NBA Draft last month, the All-SEC guard said on The Morning Rush radio show that he has not yet hired an agent, but doesn’t plan to remove his name from the draft pool.
Instead, Jones is striking while the iron is hot, coming off a season in which he led the conference in scoring at 22.0 points per game and earned SEC Co-Player of the Year honors from the AP.
“There’s a good chance that I’m going to stay in the draft and take on bigger challenges,” Jones said Thursday. “I feel like Coach Muss has put me in a good position where I can go out and continue my journey and continue to show what my worth is.”
When presented with the idea of returning for his senior season and teaming up with a 2020 recruiting class that features four four-star prospects in an effort to help the Razorbacks reach their first Sweet 16 since 1996, Jones said he hasn’t really thought much about it.
He then made a “you never know” comment that – coupled with him not yet hiring an agent – will likely give Arkansas fans a sliver of hope that he’ll change his mind.
“It’s sweet being the man on campus, but you also have to think about how you want to be remembered – did you leave it all on the court, do you feel like you have anything else to prove, did you show your worth?” Jones said. “There’s so many little things that go into it… You never know what will happen, but right now I’m just taking it day by day and letting God handle everything.”
It’s unclear if the draft will be moved because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s currently scheduled for June 25 and players can decide to return to school up to 10 days before.
A recent rule also allows players to get representation from NCAA-certified agents and maintain eligibility. They can also return to school if they go undrafted, as long as they participated in the NBA Draft Combine – which is currently scheduled for May 21-24.
With the NBA season still suspended, those dates could change. The AP is also reporting that the NBA has banned pre-draft workouts, whether in person or via video. Teams are limited to four-hour interviews by phone or video, as well as questionnaires.
In the mean time, Jones said he’s diving into his faith by reading the Bible three times a day, as well as continuing to take care of his body – which he has famously transformed since he was a self-described fat kid in high school.
“I’m still doing everything I did,” Jones said. “I’m just staying in shape and just being ready, making sure I eat right still, making sure I still run, still do my pushups and sit-ups.”
Jones is not the only Arkansas player dealing with the unique situation created by the coronavirus. Viewed by most experts as the better professional prospect, Isaiah Joe is trying to decide if he wants to return for his junior season.
During an Instagram Live Q&A session on Sunday, head coach Eric Musselman hinted that both players were “testing the NBA waters,” but Joe has not made a public announcement. Although he acknowledged his teammate had a big decision looming and that he wanted him to make the “best decision for him” and to do so “freely,” Jones hasn’t tried swaying him one way or the other.
“We really try to talk about life and other things outside of basketball because we already know a lot of people are coming at us about basketball,” Jones said. “It’s good to get your mind off basketball and just talk about life.”
Throughout the season, Jones was open about his love for Arkansas’ first-year head coach. Talking about Musselman again Thursday, he sounded reflective in his appreciation for how he prepared him for the next level.
Musselman used his NBA connections as a former coach in the professional ranks and provided Jones with information for both scenarios – returning to school and leaving.
“For a coach to actually help you and get a lot of feedback from teams is amazing,” Jones said. “All of the coaches have been doing it, so it’s always a blessing to have coaches who are very invested in you and want to see you have a good future.
“Coach Muss is just a good, genuine man. He does good things on and off the court and he shows love for the players. Who wouldn’t want to play hard for a coach who treats you like a pro before you go pro?”
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