Herbert Jones shows 'warrior' effort by stepping in against Auburn
Kira Lewis Jr. looked to the side during a free-throw attempt, and much to his surprise, there was Herbert Jones. The Alabama guard claimed he wasn’t completely sure if Jones would be playing in Wednesday night’s game against Auburn. After all, the junior forward suffered a fractured wrist against LSU two weeks before and wasn’t supposed to see the court until next week at the earliest.
But alas, there stood Jones, complete with a black cast on his injured left hand.
“That’s a warrior,” Lewis told reporters following the game. “To play with one hand and do what he did in seven minutes, not many people in the world can do that. My hat’s off to him. We needed him. He made big-time plays, got big-time rebounds.”
Jones logged just seven minutes, picking up a block and three rebounds. Alabama was +13 when he was on the court. And while the valiant effort wasn’t enough to pull the Crimson Tide through in a 95-91 overtime loss to No. 11 Auburn, it didn’t go unnoticed.
“Look, he’s plus-13 in seven minutes,” head coach Nate Oats told reporters "Talk about an impact on the game. That’s a pretty good impact on the game.”
Following Tuesday’s practice, Oats ruled Jones out for Wednesday’s game, stating that the forward would likely return to action by the Crimson Tide’s game against Texas A&M next Wednesday. Alabama team trainer Clarke Holter worked out Jones on Sunday, and the junior was “super sore” Monday and Tuesday. However, the Greensboro, Ala., native’s desire to play in the in-state rivalry ultimately prevailed.
Jones tested out his wrist early Wednesday afternoon taking part in a brief suiting session. After he gave the green light, Alabama cleared his playing cast with the SEC allowing him to suit up.
“It was more to get some bullets in before we try to put him in against LSU,” Oats said. “(Holter) thought, I guess, after giving him Monday and Tuesday completely off — they did some right-hand stuff, but the ball didn’t touch his left hand.
“They said, ‘You know what, let’s try to get him in when we know we’re going to defense and not going to have any offense.’ So, if you noticed every single time there was a whistle where we were going to defense with under a minute going into the media timeout, we put him in — hoping that he could play more defensive possessions than offensive possessions and just get him some live reps before we play him Saturday.”
Alabama (13-11, 5-6 in the SEC) will have another opportunity to lock down a crucial Quad 1 victory Saturday when it hosts No. 25 LSU (18-6, 9-2) at 3 p.m. CT inside Coleman Coliseum. Having Jones for that game would certainly be useful for the Crimson Tide which was outrebounded by the Tigers 49-31 during a 90-76 defeat in Baton Rouge, La., earlier this season.
Jones is far and away Alabama’s best defensive player and came into Wednesday’s game leading the team in charges taken (18) and dunks (13) while ranking second with 23-floor dives. The 6-foot-7, 205-pounder has played in 20 of Alabama’s 24 games. Two of those absences resulted in back-to-back home losses to Arkansas and Tennessee following Jones’ recent wrist injury.
“They’re supposed to look at injuries. We still got to get wins,” Oats said of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. “They’re not going to look at a team with 15 wins… We’ve got to accumulate as many wins as possible and hope that they do look at the fact that Herb was out and how valuable he is to us.
“Look at this game — he plays seven minutes and we’re +13 when he’s in. I hope they don’t look at just games played and not played because he was not healthy for a month, and then he didn’t play in the two previous losses before this one and now he played seven minutes. With him, we’re a completely different team.”