Arkansas’ Mason Jones hires an agent, announces he will not come back for senior season

Pig Trail Nation

Photo Courtesy: University of Arkansas Athletics

LITTLE ROCK — Co-SEC Player of the Year Mason Jones has signed with Los Angeles-baed Creative Arts Agency, which announced the match via Twitter on Friday confirming what sources had been saying would happen for weeks.

The move all but guarantees Jones will forego his senior season as he prepares for the 2020 NBA Draft. Multiple sources on April 17 indicated that Jones would not return to Arkansas as he was finalizing his representation deal with CAA.

Jones declared for the NBA Draft in late March, although at the time he had not signed with an agent so it was unclear whether or not he would leave the door cracked for a potential return to Arkansas.

“I’m getting real close to hiring an agent,” Jones told KNWA / Pig Trail Nation in mid-April. “I’m almost down to the nitty gritty part.”

While Jones — the SEC’s leading scorer at 22.0 points per game in 2019-20 — does appear on several NBA Draft Top 100 “big boards,” the vast majority of mock drafts do not include him in the 60 selections that make up the first and second rounds. The draft is scheduled for June 25 at the Barclays Center in New York, although given the suspension of the ’19-20 NBA season roughly six weeks ago due the coronavirus pandemic there have been calls for the draft to be moved to August 1.

The pause in the NBA extends beyond the season as it affects potential draft picks who are not currently able to travel to meet with and workout for teams, and certainly the NBA Draft Combine and the NBA Summer League both appear to be in jeopardy of being cancelled. Those could be significant and problematic circumstances for a player like Jones who needs to get in front of and impress NBA scouts and front-office decision-makers as much as possible.

Two NBA scouts who spoke with on the condition of anonymity were split on Jones declaring for the draft. One said Jones was not on team draft boards and should remain in school for his senior season, while the other said he believed Jones had Nos. 38-48 (mid-second-round) draft-pick value because “in today’s game aggressiveness/motor is a skill.”

Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said during a recent teleconference that he and his staff members had provided extensive research regarding Jones’ draft possibilities to the Jones family.

“From all indications, it sounds like that’s the challenge he’s looking towards,” Musselman said. “We kind of supply the feedback that we’ve gotten from NBA teams to Mason and his family and then it’s up to them. We’ve done all the research we can do up to this point. I’ve talked to 23 NBA teams, supplied them the information and we support all of our guys in any of their professional aspirations. We’re behind them 100 percent in whatever decision they make. The only thing we can do is provide information through our multiple, many, many contacts that we have.

“As a coach, you supply the information, support your guys. Basically everybody on a college roster wants to play in the NBA and as a coach you support them and try to help them, call NBA teams, promote guys and get feedback, and that’s really what we’ve tried to do over the last two weeks while recruiting guys.”

The current NCAA deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft and return to college is June 3 — that’s if they did not hire an agent OR if they hired one from a select small pool of NCAA-approved agents — so if by the off chance Jones were to have a last-second change of heart and can get a waiver regarding his agent-hiring, in theory he could proceed with his ongoing draft-evaluation process and withdraw on or before June 3 for a U-turn back to Arkansas.

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