Chris Jones plays through emotional pain

MEMPHIS - University of Louisville junior Chris Jones was back in his hometown, playing another game in front of his family. This time, after an emotional few weeks Jones was sensational in a 92-31 win over Rutgers in the AAC Tournament.

Chris Jones said he got his emotional release on Wednesday night and then on Thursday went onto the court at the FedEx Forum with a "clear mind" and had the best game of his season.

Jones, a native of Memphis, has been on a roller coaster ride of emotions in recent weeks.

It was just 12 days ago that Jones made his return to Memphis with the University of Louisville basketball team and had one of the worst games of his season, going 1-fot-10 from the field and scoring just three points in a loss.

But it wasn't just about the game that day. Jones found out soon after the game that he had lost his best friend. His step-brother and best friend, Demetrius Ray, was shot and killed in Parkway Village, a troubled neighborhood about 15 minutes from the Fed Ex Forum, not far from where Jones grew up.

Ray was slain on the same day at the U of L vs. Memphis game. Jones was told by his mother after the game. He didn't attend the funeral, instead dedicating the rest of the season to Ray and having a huge game four days later at SMU.

But Jones said he had been "pretty emotional," in recent weeks and needed "some closure."

So, on Wednesday night when U of L arrived in Memphis for the American Athletic Conference Tournament coach Rick Pitino led Jones take a ride with a friend.

Jones ended up at the cemetery where Ray was buried several weeks ago.

"I think all my emotions came out when I went to the grave," Jones said. "I guess I let all my emotions out there and got refocused and had a good game. I needed that a lot.

"I think I really needed that a lot."

On Thursday, Jones said he felt better emotionally and it showed on the floor. He hit 7 of 14 shots, including 4 of 7 three-pointers, and finished with 18 points, six steals, five rebounds and four assists as U of L smacked Rutgers 92-31 in the AAC quarterfinals.

"Chris has been through a lot," U of L teammate Montrezl Harrell said. "We didn't need him to worry about all the things going on around him. We needed him to focus on the game and he did that. This is big for him to play like this."

"I'm so happy for him," U of L senior Russ Smith said. "Coming here and performing really well is such a lift for him. He's playing well and just really getting the shots up."

Pitino said Jones, who admittedly grew up with some tough times in the Memphis area, has come long way since he arrived at U of L. Pitino said the rough few weeks have really helped push Jones over the edge in becoming a "better person."

"Chris and I talked about celebrating his step brother's life," Pitino said. "But you don't necessarily need to win a game for him, but you honor him with the type of person you are and the type of person that you can become.

"He's just a great young man and he's evolving into the type of person we want at Louisville."

Pitino said he knew Jones needed to mourn when he came back to town and the player said he feels like the incident has "really made me think."

"I have been playing harder and for my teammates more," he said. "Being a positive person will help you in life, on and off the court. I guess it's helped me, being positive.

"I got refocused and came in and did what I had to do. For me, missing the funeral as tough. But I got a lot of pictures from my family and this is what I needed. I just needed to have this time and then move on."

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