No mo’ MoMo: Jones is latest to leave UA basketball

Will the last guard out of Arizona please turn out the lights?

We reported the decision of Daniel Bejarano to leave the University of Arizona basketball program a couple of weeks ago.  Then, we told you about Corey Hawkins‘ decision to leave the Arizona State program.

Now, Lamont “MoMo” Jones has announced he will be leaving the UofA program as well.   All three are talented perimeter players that caught everyone by surprise with their announcements.

Hawkins and Bejarano were highly-touted recruits who left after just one season, looking for a program that will give them more playing time.  But Jones was a starter at point guard in just his sophomore season, and the top returning scorer from last season’s squad that made it to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight.

There is some speculation, however, that he was looking at reduced playing time next season, as the Wildcats will add a couple of outstanding freshmen guards in Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson.

As long as those two fulfill their commitment to the program and show up this summer, Jones’ departure won’t create havoc.  Arizona will actually have one of the deepest backcourts in the Pac-12 next season.

The Cats return two seasoned guards from last years’ team, to go with the incoming freshmen.  Kyle Fogg will be back for his senior season and Jordin Mayes is coming off an outstanding freshman season.  Fogg’s eight points per game make him the top returning scorer now.

Head coach Sean Miller was reportedly already considering using a three-guard offense to accommodate the abundance of perimeter players.  That may not be necessary now, since the freshmen may not be ready for prime time right away.

Besides, there is still some concern about Turner’s ability to qualify academically.  The NCAA is supposedly investigating whether the school he attended for his final prep year, the Quality Eduction Academy in North Carolina, is a legitimate school and meets the NCAA’s academic requirements.

Turner is the first-ever 5-star recruit for Miller, and the main building block for continuing his restoration project at Arizona.

Derrick Williams, who entered the NBA draft after his sophomore season, carried the ball in helping the program to a 30-8 season and deep tournament run.  Without Williams to power the offense, Turner will need to step up right away.

But Jones’ contributions, particularly this past season, can’t be overlooked.  Besides being the secondary scoring option behind Williams, he brought an intensity to the game that spread to the other players.  The stats he leaves behind in Tucson include 9.7 points and 2.4 assists per game to help guide the 2010-11 squad to the Pac-10 regular-season championship.

He appeared in 68 games during his stop-over in Arizona.  Now he will likely take his talents back to his native New York and apply for a waiver from the NCAA so that he doesn’t have to sit out a season.

The waiver would be based on the need to transfer as a result of a family emergency.  At least that’s how he has explained his decision to leave Arizona.  It’s all about the need to be with family, he says.

And there is an interesting bit of irony in watching MoMo depart the program he said he loved so much.

Jones played a significant role in convincing two of the players creating the crowded backcourt next year, Turner and Johnson, to join the Arizona program.

Now they’re on the way.  But MoMo won’t be on hand to greet them.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics/Luke Adams)