Perry Jones III has no regrets returning to Baylor for his sophomore season.
Jones passed up being a likely lottery pick in last year's NBA Draft even though he knew he would miss the first five games of the Bears' season this year because of a six-game suspension he received near the end of last season for accepting impermissible benefits.
"I was confident before I made my decision, and as soon as I made it publicly, I didn't have any regrets," said Jones, who played at Duncanville. "I came back because I wanted to play with a great group of guys."
The decision so far has worked out for Jones and Baylor.
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The Bears (12-0) are ranked sixth in the country, and are one of only six unbeaten teams remaining. They wrap up nonconference play tonight against No. 15 Mississippi State (12-1) in Game 2 of The Showcase presented by MetroPCS at American Airlines Center.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. following the SMU-Oklahoma State game, which starts at 5:30 p.m.
Mississippi State presents the biggest challenge for Baylor to date. The Bears have played NCAA Tournament-caliber teams already -- San Diego State, BYU and West Virginia -- but none of them have as much overall talent as the Bulldogs.
An interesting matchup will be Jones and Mississippi State forward Arnett Moultrie. Both are 6-foot-11 and in the 240-250-pound range.
Baylor coach Scott Drew joked that "maybe they'll have a 3-point contest," pointing out Jones' 50 percent 3-point shooting percentage (4 for 8) and Moultrie's 75 percent (3 for 4).
"Both are outstanding players," Drew said. "At the end of the day, not many players have Perry Jones' size or Arnett's size with their touch."
But, as Jones and Drew both said, this year's Baylor team isn't about one player taking over a game. Instead, the Bears pride themselves on sharing the ball and getting everybody involved.
Through the first 12 games, Baylor has five players averaging double-digit points, and the team has held opponents to an average of 59.3 points.
"This year, we have more talent," Jones said. "We don't have a main focal point or scorer; it can be anybody's night. There's no jealously amongst the teammates. Nobody has a big ego."
The only starter the Bears lost from last season was guard LaceDarius Dunn. But Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton have taken over the point guard position, and Brady Heslip has emerged as a scoring threat from the shooting guard position.
And, when big man J'mison Morgan was lost with an ACL injury, senior Anthony Jones and freshman Quincy Miller stepped up to provide a presence in the paint.
"I think our biggest strength is depth," Drew said. "They all share the ball extremely well, and it makes us hard to guard. We have three or four guys capable of going off."
Baylor hopes to show its depth and talent tonight in front of what should be a home-type atmosphere, as several alumni and players come from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including Jones and Mesquite Horn product Quincy Acy.
"To play in Dallas is huge," Drew said. "It's an area we recruit a lot in, and it's where most of our alumni live. Our players will be excited to play, no question about that."
More important, it'll be a good test before Big 12 play begins next week.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760