Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Veteran Mad Ants guard Trey McKinney Jones had not planned on returning to Fort Wayne this season, but an injury during the summer changed his plans.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Trey McKinney Jones pops a 3 pointer against Landry Nnoko of the Grand Rapid Drive during the 2nd quarter at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Trey McKinney Jones drives to the baseline pulling Grand Rapids defense back before kicking the ball back out to C.J. Fair for an open 3 pointer at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Trey McKinney Jones pulls up for a 3 pointer against Jacob Wiley of the Long Island Nets during the 1st quarter.
Friday, January 05, 2018 1:00 am
Guard's plans waylaid by injury in summer
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
Trey McKinney Jones never thought he'd be back with the Mad Ants. And he certainly didn't think it would be as a point guard.
But he dislocated his shoulder and tore his labrum during NBA Summer League, and that changed all his plans.
“If you remember at the beginning of last season, I said it was my last go-around in this league, but maybe it was God's way of telling me to just be a little more patient, ride it out,” said McKinney Jones, who had never before had a serious injury.
One wouldn't blame McKinney Jones, 27, if he were really down about how this played out, but he's a positive kind of guy.
In five games in the Orlando Summer League, he averaged 10.2 points and 4.4 rebounds representing the Miami Heat, and then he went to Las Vegas with the Indiana Pacers and looked equally impressive averaging 9.3 points and 4 rebounds over four games before he suffered his injury.
At worst, he had positioned himself well for a lucrative overseas contract, but he also had NBA scouts talking about his offensive potential, after they'd seen him star as a defender for four seasons in Fort Wayne, including the 2014 championship and the 2015 trip to the finals.
“The timing of things was kind of unfortunate because it happened during Summer League and I'd be hearing some good things. It not only took away some potential NBA looks but it also took all my overseas contracts away,” the 6-foot-5, 220-pound McKinney Jones said.
The Pacers brought him to their training camp as he rehabilitated from surgery, and the Mad Ants (12-10) wanted him back on their roster. And the fans were happy to await his return Dec. 2.
What the Mad Ants needed from McKinney Jones upon his return, though, wasn't more of the same – in 123 career G League games, he has averaged 15 points and 4.6 rebounds – but for him to take pressure off Walt Lemon Jr.
“Something that Trey hasn't played consistently is at the point guard position,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “That was one of the things he and I talked about during training camp, was giving him some chances at point guard. He's an unbelievable defender and is athletic and can get to the rack. ... It's going to help Walt with giving him more energy. I'm liking what Trey's doing out there.”
Having McKinney Jones at the point allows more playing time for rookie Ben Moore and veteran DeQuan Jones and makes it more difficult for opposing teams, such as the Windy City Bulls (8-12), whom they play at 7 p.m. today at Memorial Coliseum, to buckle down on Lemon.
“I grew up playing point guard, but it had been about five years or so. It takes a little bit of time,” said McKinney Jones, who last played the point full time at the University of Miami, though he did fill in as a Mad Ants rookie when Ron Howard was out.
No one is happier to see McKinney Jones on the court than Lemon.
“It's good because it brings another scoring option. It takes the pressure off me and you can see that Trey is getting more comfortable. He's getting more in a rhythm,” said Lemon, who is averaging 23 points and 6.5 assists.
McKinney Jones is averaging 11.5 points and 3.3 assists. Showing he can play the point again may ultimately make McKinney Jones even more valuable in the eyes of the scouts. That would make this circuitous path back to the Mad Ants a good thing, perhaps.
“I'm just a little rusty,” he said, “but I'm happy to be out there, for sure.”