Anthony Jones hasn't tried to kid himself about what will happen this afternoon. Friends and teammates have asked him all week if he'll feel pressure coming home to play the team he left two years ago to join Nevada-Las Vegas.
His friends hope, some even expect, Jones will score 40 points when the Runnin' Rebels meet top-ranked Georgetown at 1 o'clock in Capital Centre. It will be the Hoyas' first game against a Division I opponent since winning the NCAA championship last April.
"There is pressure," Jones said yesterday, following UNLV's workout at the University of Maryland. "But I'm not going to worry about it. You know, when I first went to Las Vegas, I never thought about playing against Georgetown. I've played against everybody in practice, but this is different. It sure will seem strange. But I've got to put that aside once the game starts, otherwise it wouldn't be fair to my teammates."
Jones has done pretty fair by his teammates so far. His 16.0 scoring average ties him with Richie Adams for the team lead. With Jones playing shooting guard, No. 20 UNLV (1-1) has enough talent to upset Georgetown (4-0).
Maryland will be tested again tonight in Birmingham against Alabama, which will send 6-9 Bobby Lee Hurt and 6-7 Buck Johnson against the poor-rebounding Terrapins. Virginia, which yesterday lost center Olden Polynice for an indeterminate period, will play at Duke in the first game of the Atlantic Coast Conference season. American, Georgetown and Navy all play in tournaments while Towson State is at Howard.
Jones, an all-Met player at Dunbar, transferred to Las Vegas before the season in which Georgetown won the national championship. He said yesterday he wanted to make clear he has no bad feelings toward anyone at Georgetown.
"I felt kind of out of place at Georgetown," he said. "I didn't like the constant supervision or for my life to be that structured. I found myself going home a lot and hanging out with the fellas too much and getting away from the things I should have been doing. I found myself wanting to do things to spite people. And that wasn't good.
"I felt Coach (John) Thompson and I had a good relationship, and a lot in common. There's no hard feelings between the two of us, I hope. Coach Thompson even took me out to Las Vegas, and he set up lunch with Miss (Mary) Fenlon (Georgetown's academic coordinator), Coach (Jerry) Tarkanian and the lady who was the academic advisor at UNLV back then."
Jones said he has wanted to approach Thompson this weekend, but added, "I kinda feel too intimidated . . . He's a gentle man once you get to know him, but he's still an intimidating figure."
Looking back, Jones said, "Coach Thompson just wanted what was best for me. I needed to get away and just find myself again. Las Vegas isn't like Washington; there's not much outside Las Vegas except highways and mountains. But I'm really happy out there."
Jones' sophomore year at GU wasn't a happt one. As a freshman, he averaged seven points in the Hoyas' drive to the Final Four. His sophomore year held incredible promise, but he shot poorly from the foul line and finished the injury-interrupted season with a 36 percent mark.
His 53 percent shooting from the field wasn't enough to bolster his feelings. "I worried too much about it," he said. "I couldn't go anywhere without worrying about it. When I could forget about it, that's when I'd have a good game, here and there. But there were so many negative things being said (by outsiders), it was uncomfortable.
"I just wanted to get away and Coach Tarkanian said I could start fresh at UNLV, that there would be no clouds hanging over me out there just because I didn't make it at Georgetown. It's so relaxed out there. The people all seem to be so polite and hospitable. Not that they aren't here, but it's just different."
Jones' basketball is different, too. He played forward frequently at Georgetown, but spends most of his time as a shooting guard for UNLV. "It's a running, open-court style and I get to handle the ball more," he said. "Another thing is playing time. At Georgetown, we had so many talented guys that you might not get a lot of time, especially if you were playing poorly. But it's a different situation with UNLV."
Tarkanian sounded as if he couldn't be happier with Jones: "He's a great kid. We just don't get kids like him right out of high school. He's been wonderful."
GU's players, particularly Jones' close friend, Billy Martin, know how important this homecoming game is to Jones. "We've been looking forward to this for a while," Martin said. "We played against each other several times in high school and in summer league games. I'm sure he'll be fired up for this."
And Thompson said earlier this week, "I'm certain we will serve as an incentive for Anthony."
The pressure of returning home is something with which Tarkanian doesn't want Jones to have to deal. "I just want him to go out there and play," he said. "He's an absolute player already."