Wait ‘til next year: The Donnie Jones era of UCF Basketball

By Trace Trylko

For long-suffering fans of the Chicago Cubs, the anthem is always the same: Wait ‘til next year. Following a 56-54 loss to Tulsa in UCF’s American Athletic Conference home opener, it seems fans of the Knights’ Men’s Basketball team should get used to saying the same thing.

If you didn’t watch live at the CFE Arena or on television via ESPNU, you missed two different storylines, but one similar result:

Glass half empty

  • Just three minutes into the game, UCF trailed 8-0

  • 16 Knights’ turnovers, including 11 in the first half

  • Only 21 first half points, trailing by 15 at the break

 

Glass half full

  • Recent American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week, Adonys Henriquez, paced the Knights with a team-high 17 points

  • Success with a pair of big bodies in the lineup at the same time, Justin McBride and Stephon Blair

  • A strong second half rally helped UCF close the gap to two

 

The Knights rang in 2015 before a sparse crowd and a starting lineup that featured Dylan Karell and Shaheed Davis, both of whom would fail to log even 10 minutes each in this contest. Why do I mention this? The AAC opener marked the Knights 12th game this season and UCF Head Coach Donnie Jones still doesn’t have a consistent starting five.

What does Jones have? His current version of the Knights fails on basic fundamentals and lacks intensity. You could have said the same about last year’s squad, too. In his fifth season (with a record that now stands at 62-58 following Sunday’s loss at Temple) Donnie-ball seems to be going nowhere fast.

No play epitomized the mess UCF Men’s Basketball has become more than the way the Knights executed with 13 seconds left versus the Golden Hurricane. Coming out of a timeout and trailing by two (by the way, the next time you’re at a UCF game watch how long it takes Coach Jones to actually start talking with his team – the ever-lengthy consultation with the carousel of coaches eats up most of a timeout) guard Daiquan Walker (a junior who had already missed 5 of 6 shots during the game) bounced the ball off the backboard and UCF stumbled again.

"We didn't get what we wanted," Jones told the Orlando Sentinel. "Right when they saw zone, Daiquan just kept the ball. We had no more timeouts. There wasn't much we could do, but hope it went in.”

The Jones apologists will say he’s starting a couple of exciting freshman, the bench isn’t deep, UCF is recovering from scholarship reductions, there have been injuries and a promising list of signees is heading our way. You know, ‘Wait ‘til next year’ talk.

Meantime, over in Dallas, Head Coach Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs joined the American from Conference USA at the same time as UCF. How has SMU fared? 27-10 last season, including 12-6 in the AAC, and NIT runner-ups. This season, the ponies are off to a 10-4 start and a 1-1 mark in the AAC and clearly zooming past UCF on the court.

My, what a difference good coaching makes.