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Texas Kai Jones, now rocketing up NBA mock draft boards, going pro early

Texas forward Kai Jones (22) dunks the ball ahead of Iowa State forward Javan Johnson (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Kai Jones was a lanky freshman when he arrived at Texas in 2019. His freshman season, Jones averaged just 3.6 points while showing random flashes of athleticism. Something was there but it was raw.

His sophomore season, Jones took off, quite literally, too. The 6-foot-11 forward from the Bahamas ran the floor hard, getting high-flying dunks and plenty of hustle chances.

Jones is now running straight toward the NBA. After a dynamite February and March, Jones has rocketed up mock draft boards and made clear Wednesday that he intends “to sign with an agent but it’s forever #HookEm.”

Considering how Jones finished the season, going pro was probably an easy choice.

“Growing up in the Bahamas, not many of my peers have had the opportunity that I have in front of me now,” Jones said. “And for that I want to thank my family, especially my mom and dad, for providing me the opportunity to be in the position I am today.

“My story is just beginning, but I’ve already come so far and my journey to this point truly has prepared me for this moment,” he added. 

Jones averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, but it’s clear he’s got enormous upside. He shot 38.2% from 3-point range and 58% overall. He finished the season getting double-digit point totals in six of the last eight games.

Coach Shaka Smart had Jones coming off the bench for almost the entire season. That’s why Jones was named the Big 12’s sixth man of the year. But Smart put Jones into the starting lineup for the Big 12 tournament championship game against Okahoma State, and the sophomore had 13 points.

“He’s always had a mentality of, ‘I’m ready,’” Smart said after the Big 12 tournament. “I think when he plays with that incredible energy and spirit, and he's going to be one of the best guys on the court.”

Jones becomes the third player to leave off the 11-man roster. Royce Hamm Jr. and Donovan Williams have announced they are going into the NCAA transfer portal. 

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.