Following the completion of the regular season on Sunday, Texas Longhorns sophomore forward Kai Jones, the player Texas head coach Shaka Smart calls his sixth starter, received recognition from the conference on Monday as the Big 12’s Sixth Man of the Year, as chosen by the league’s coaches.
Redshirt junior guard Andrew Jones made the All-Big 12 second team, while senior guard Matt Coleman and junior guard Courtney Ramey were both named to the third team. Freshman forward Greg Brown III made the All-Freshman team and the All-Newcomer team.
A 6’11, 218-pounder from The Bahamas, Kai Jones is a breakout player this season for the Longhorns, tying for second on the team in blocks (19), tying for third in rebounding (4.8 rpg), fourth in steals (22), and sixth in scoring (8.5 ppg) while averaging 22.7 mpg.
The improvement in offensive efficiency has been impressive by Jones, who made significant strides in his understanding of shot selection between his freshman and sophomore seasons — he’s hit 56.5 percent from the field (70-124), including a 36.7-percent mark (11-30) from three-point range, and has reached double figures in scoring 10 times in his first 23 games.
As an athlete, Jones has the quickness and bounce to finish around the rim offensively while closing down passing lanes defensively and finishing possessions with steals or defensive rebounds. But playing with a more consistent motor remains a challenge for Jones.
Heading into the Kansas game, for instance, Jones had secured only five rebounds over the previous three games.
“We did really challenge him on rebounding because he hadn’t rebounded as well the last couple of games, and I thought he responded in a terrific way to get five offensive rebounds, eight rebounds total in less than 21 minutes is really, really big and we need those,” Smart said after the game.
With five rebounds in the last two games, Jones still has some work to do in terms of consistency after his stretch of 22 rebounds in three games starting against Kansas, but just as the athleticism of Jones makes him an intriguing, high-upside prospect at the next level, he’s also still tapping into the upside of his intangibles.
“Tonight with his motor and energy and just juice that he gives off is the word that we use,” Smart said after Jones scored 10 points on five shots and secured eight rebounds against the Jayhawks. “I mean, Kai is the kind of guy, if you spend time around him, he’s got an unbelievable spirit and just as his passion to him and so what we’re trying to do is really encourage him to bring that out as much as possible on the court.”
When Jones does that, he’s a lot of fun to watch.