Alabama Still Getting 'Goosebumps' From Epic Herb Jones Free Throws
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nate Oats usually doesn’t watch game film with the sound on. There are too many distractions and it can keep him from paying attention to what he really needs to be studying.
After what Herb Jones did, he made an exception for the LSU win.
“You kinda wanted to go back to a spot in the game where you get goosebumps,” he said. “You’re thinking about how great it was, especially in those last few minutes.
“The free throws were the big thing to me, and the crowd recognized how valuable he was to us.”
Days later, the two free throws left-handed Herb Jones made with his right hand remain the talk of Tuscaloosa, as the junior wing retuned to the starting lineup while wearing a cast just a couple of weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a wrist fracture.
He only scored six points in nearly 29 minutes of playing time, but also grabbed 17 rebounds to go with three assists and two blocks. Even opposing coach Will Wade called him a “Warrior” following the 88-82 loss.
“Herb was doing Herb things,” said Oats, who didn’t realize Jones was grabbing so many rebounds until an assistant pointed it out late in the game.
It’s not like Jones is like some athletes who throw or hit left-handed but still use their right hands for everything else (like former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa). He’s left-handed all the way.
In the long run this might help Jones a little as he needed to improve his right-handed skill development some. But for now, everything is a challenge.
“Eating a bowl of cereal is kind of weird to me,” he said. ““Eating is by far the hardest thing to do.”
Specifically, Jones broke a carpal bone, one of the eight small that make up the wrist that connects the hand to the forearm, when he landed hard during the first half at LSU on Jan. 29. A screw was inserted by Kathleen E. McKeon of Andrews Sports Medicine/St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, to fixate the bone.
Initially, Jones thought his season was likely over, but then quickly learned he would be able to contribute in some ways within a couple of weeks – as soon he could handle the discomfort, be functional and protect himself.
The plan moving forward is to have Jones play the next two games (Wednesday vs. Texas A&M, 6 p.m., SEC Network; Saturday at Ole Miss, 7:30 p.m., SEC Network), and then barring any setbacks move him into a smaller, more flexible cast. He may not be able to play the rest of the season without some sort of extra protection.
Per league rules, any cast has to be covered in half-inch open-cell memory foam, be approved by both the SEC office and then the officiating crew prior to each game.
The biggest risk in terms of a setback is actually another blow to the area.
“At that point your goals are to restore strength, maintain a normal range of motion and protect the area from blunt force,” basketball trainer Clarke Holter said.
“If he’s going to have an increase in pain or discomfort, it’ll usually be because he severs a similar mechanism, aka falling out of the air on an outstretched hand will result in a direct blunt-force impact.”
Diving to the floor is one of the things that Jones has to be careful about, although he obviously did that a couple of times against LSU, going for loose balls. One in particular was a bit of a tough lesson for him to learn about picking his spots.
“I dove on the floor and it ended up being a shot-clock violation, but I don’t think I should of did, kind of,” Jones said. “That kind of hurt a little.”
Also, when trying to draw charging fouls he needs to keep his hands up.
“I just have to keep protecting it,” Jones said about his wrist.
Alabama is already familiar with dealing with this kind of injury as its very similar to what forward/center Donta Hall went through last season. He had surgery in January, and missed less than a week of time, but aggravated it a month later against Mississippi State.
However, there’s obviously a big difference between the positions because a wing usually has to handle the ball more. Dribbling and passing come with the position, so there’s only so much he can do on the offensive side.
Anyone who saw the free throws could tell how difficult even that was for Jones – and was after putting in a lot of extra time in the gym.
“I wouldn’t say ugly,” Jones said about his initial attempts. “I would say [they went] to the left and I had to adjust and move myself to the right a little to line it up. I’ve been working on it ever since then. It’s looking pretty good.”
Nevertheless, the first free throw against LSU hit the front rim, with Jones on his toes hoping for a favorable roll. He got it, making the second one a lot easier as the fans at Coleman Coliseum did the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do during Alabama’s free throws, be quiet.
“It was crazy,” Jones said about the reaction. “That’s the loudest I think I’ve ever heard it get on a free throw.
“I wasn’t nervous. It wasn’t like anyone expected me to make a free throw with my right hand. So there wasn’t any pressure.”
Just don’t expect a one-handed 3-pointer anytime soon.
“I don’t think Coach Oats would be too happy with that one,” Jones said with a laugh.