Second-year center/forward in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Kai Jones is coming off a career night on Friday night for the Charlotte Hornets (6-14) and it looks like the Bahamian might be turning the corner in his career. He was instrumental in guiding the Hornets to a 110-108 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves (10-9).
The 19th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft experienced a career-high 28 minutes on the floor after averaging just 7.2 minutes per game this season. He made the most of those 28 minutes, coming away with a career-highs in points with nine and he pulled down 12 rebounds. He shot at a 60 percent clip, going 3-for-5 from the field. Jones also went 3-for-4 from the charity stripe. Defensively, the big man came away with a block.
“I am glad we got the W (win) and try stay even-keeled. I am going to continue to work on my game, get my shots up and work on everything. I am just glad we got the win and I want to continue to win,” Jones said.
Jones had a few dunks in the game and was highlighted on ESPN’s SportsCenter’s top 10 plays of the night at number three when he completed an alley-oop dunk on a fast break with 11:07 left in the fourth quarter. They went up 93-83 at that point.
“They continue to tell us young guys to stay ready,” Jones said. “We continue to stay in the gym, and it feels good to be able to contribute to winning. That is what I am all about.”
Jones added: “My confidence level has always been high, just believing in myself and the work that I put in over the summer to develop into a complete player. I am just continuing to have faith in God – believing in Him and Him taking me to where I am destined to be.”
Last season, Jones played in just 21 games. He has played in 11 games this season. He is progressing in the right direction, averaging 7.2 minutes per game this season compared to last season’s three minutes per game.
Hornets’ Head Coach Steve Clifford has noticed Jones’ growth and praised his play.
“I don’t see that he’s doing anything that he can’t do every night,” Clifford said. “He’s playing to his real strengths. He’s tough, he’s a terrific athlete, he’s got a good nose for the ball, and he’s playing very smart.”
Jones said that it is huge to have Clifford’s praise.
“I talk to him in his office about what to do in the game and executing those things is huge for me because I gain trust in him and the organization,” Jones said. “For him, I can believe in him with him saying that I listened to him and I get an opportunity. The trust goes both ways and that is huge for any coach-player relationship. It is also huge for the team and building that with everyone on the team.”
Jones said his progression is a testament of his hard work behind the scenes.
Bahamians got to see Jones this summer when he made his debut on The Bahamas senior men’s national basketball team at the Kendal G.L Isaacs
Gymnasium. He stole the spotlight with his acrobatic plays and energy. He led the team with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a 86-81 loss to Venezuela in the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Basketball World Cup Americas Qualifiers. Jones also played in The Bahamas’ next game against Argentina, in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Jones had 16 points and six rebounds in that game, but The Bahamas fell, 95-77.
Jones and the Hornets played the NBA leading Boston Celtics at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, last night, but the result of that game was unavailable up to press time.