- Associated Press - Thursday, November 18, 2010

LEXINGTON, KY. (AP) - Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones has his homecoming all mapped out.

There’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 Friday’s game against Portland while he’s at it.

“I told him that I have never had a player go home and play well, so good luck,” Calipari said with a sarcastic shrug.

He’s only slightly kidding. The NCAA’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.

It’s a job he’ll accept, even if it’s not the one he signed on for. When the Portland native signed with the Wildcats last spring _ a decision he made only after verbally committing to Washington at a televised press conference _ he figured he would could float around the perimeter while Kanter did the dirty work inside.

Though Kanter is appealing the NCAA’s ruling, his absence leaves Jones as Kentucky’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 freshmen to post double-double in their debut. Jones finished with 25 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in one very eye-opening performance.

Terrence was a beast,” said senior center Josh Harrellson.

He’ll have to be if Kentucky wants to survive a tougher early-season test that than it had last season, when the Wildcats 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 aren’t as deep, making next week’s journey to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational anything but a vacation.

“This is going to be a learning situation for us,” Calipari said. “We have to figure out what we do, how hard we have to play.”

It’s a lesson Calipari has tried to impart on Jones for months, even if it’s meant making Jones a scapegoat in practice when things go wrong. The “tough love” approach has worked because Jones knows the barbs from his coach aren’t always personal.

“I don’t look at it the wrong way,” Jones said. “I don’t look at it like he’s yelling at me because he’s mad. I just look at it as he’s wanting me to do better to better the team and he expects it.”

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.

“Right now we are the youngest team out there,” Calipari said. “Whether it’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. That’s where we are.”

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