When No. 15 Georgetown takes on 13-time loser Seton Hall in a Big East Conference game tonight at 8 o'clock at Capital Centre, Anthony Jones will return. Finally, Jones' injured elbow has mended enough for him to resume playing. The plastic cast is gone.
Only the elbow bandage and the doubts about his mysterious season remain. "What I feel," Jones, a 6-foot-6 sophomore forward, said recently, "is a desperate hurt for the game."
Four weeks and seven games have passed since Jones went up for a layup and came down on hard times. In the Hoyas' easy 71-43 victory over Wisconsin in Los Angeles, Jones dislocated both his left elbow and his season.
"I landed on my left arm and it snapped out of place. I felt the pain right away. It surprised me. I was stunned by it," Jones said.
The only games Jones has played since then have been in his mind. And these are the kind of games you cannot win.
"I see the other guys on the court, having fun and that hurts," Jones said. "I wanted my game to come together (before the injury). I knew I hadn't been playing well as an individual. That's why it hurts so much."
Even before the injury, Jones had been trudging through a strange season. He is a quiet sort, who balances a bundle of pride on an even keel.
As a freshman last year, Jones was calm in person, cool on the court. This season, though, Jones wasn't playing well and he was disappointed about it.
Sure, he was averaging nine points and five rebounds per game and he was shooting 57 percent from the field. These statistics were misleading, though.
The most telling statistic, the one that best depicted Jones' strange season, was free throw percentage: normally a good shooter, Jones has made one of 16 this season.
That computes to 6.2 percent. Banks give higher interest rates than this.
Jones, who shot 60 percent from the line last year, says he has never gone through such turbulent shooting.
Jones missed his first 10 free throws this year. His confidence was shaken. Georgetown Coach John Thompson said after one game that he might take Jones to a hypnotist in hopes of breaking the psychological block. He hasn't yet, but Thompson still talks of the possibility.
When junior guard Fred Brown returned to the Georgetown lineup for good in the ninth game of the season, an 80-65 victory over Southern (La.) University on Dec. 22, Jones lost his spot in the starting lineup.
Against Southern, his first game off the bench, Jones shot an air ball from the free throw line. The next game, he dislocated his left elbow.
"Mostly it's been self-pressure," Jones said. "Friends would mention things to me. They'd say, 'What's wrong? You don't seem like you're into it.' I agree with them. I think I was trying too hard. Maybe I need to relax more.
"I spend a lot of time shooting free throws in practice. I try to put myself in game situations. It's been tough."
"It's a psychological thing," said Thompson. "Anthony is just too good a shooter for this. You don't miss that many free throws that poorly without there being some kind of psychological problem.
"I've tried different ways with Anthony. I've been firm with him, I've humored him. We've tried to laugh it off. So far, nothing has worked."
With a confidence built on a month's rest, Jones says, "Things will come together. They have to."