FAYETTEVILLE — In a sit-down interview in July, Arkansas junior guard Mason Jones said he was motivated to prove that his first season with the Razorbacks was not a fluke and he could only get better in 2019-20.
Consider that mission accomplished.
Jones was named The Associated Press Co-SEC Player of the Year on Tuesday, joining Corliss Williamson and Bobby Portis as the only Razorbacks to win the award. Williamson was a repeat winner in 1994 and 1995, and Portis won in 2015.
Arkansas had five players - Martin Terry in 1973, Ron Brewer in 1978, Sidney Moncrief in 1979, and Todd Day and Oliver Miller in 1991 - win conference player of the year in the Southwest Conference.
Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry, who originally committed to Arkansas, shared the award with Jones. It is the first time the AP has had co-players of the year in the league since 1999-2000. Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley won player of the year as voted on by the league's coaches.
It is the third time in the past four seasons that coaches and AP have selected different players of the year for the conference.
Jones, who transferred to Arkansas after one season at Connors State College in Oklahoma, is the first Razorback to claim the SEC scoring title. He averaged 22 points per game, the highest per-game mark by an SEC player in the last four seasons.
His 661 points in 2019-20 rank seventh in program history.
As a sophomore, Jones scored 30-plus points twice in losses to Florida and Mississippi State, but struggled with consistency. Five times last season Jones scored at least 15 points in a game, then finished with six or less the next time out.
He grew into arguably the league’s most consistent player as a junior, though, pouring in 20 or more points 17 times, 30-plus points nine times and 40-plus twice against Tulsa and Auburn. During a 1-2 stretch in SEC play, Jones became the first Arkansas player to score 30 or more points in three consecutive games.
He is one of three SEC players with multiple 40-point games in a season over the last 30 seasons. Former LSU star Shaquille O’Neal and Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks round out the list.
Jones’ impact extended well beyond scoring. He also ended the regular season as Arkansas’ leader in rebounding (163), assists (100) and steals (47).
Jones' crafty nature and unorthodox style of play was difficult for opposing teams to defend. Jones shot 82.3 percent on his 271 free throw attempts over 30 games played.
His 223 made free throws broke Moncrief’s single-season program record (212) set in 1979. Jones led the nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, according to KemPom analytics, at 8.0.
In nine games in February, including five without sophomore Isaiah Joe, Jones averaged a career-best 25.6 points per game while playing a career-high 35.7 minutes. He posted per-game career highs in rebounds (6.8) and assists (4.8) in January on top of averaging 18.5 points per outing.
Through two games this month, Jones is averaging 33 points on 70.6 percent from 3-point range. He knocked down a career-high eight 3-pointers on 11 attempts in the Razorbacks' loss at Texas A&M to close the regular season.
Jones also led the SEC in Points Above Median, according to HoopLens analytics, at 143.8. PAM calculates how many additional points a player scores when compared with what an average player would have scored with those shot attempts.
2019-20 SEC honors
AP First Team All-SEC
Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama
Mason Jones, Arkansas
Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky
Nick Richards, Kentucky
Reggie Perry, Mississippi State
AP Second Team All-SEC
Samir Doughty, Auburn
Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Keyontae Johnson, Florida
Skylar Mays, LSU
Breein Tyree, Ole Miss
Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Kentucky (Coaches); Buzz Williams, Texas A&M (AP)
Player of the Year: Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky (Coaches); Mason Jones, Arkansas (AP); Reggie Perry, Mississippi State (AP)
Freshman of the Year: Anthony Edwards, Georgia (Coaches, AP)
Sixth-Man of the Year: Tyson Carter, Mississippi State (Coaches)
Defensive Player of the Year: Yves Pons, Tennessee (Coaches)