The Times West Virginian

January 25, 2012

FURFARI COLUMN - Cronin says Kevin Jones is NBA caliber

By Mickey Furfari
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Kevin Jones, the leader of the surprising West Virginia University men’s basketball team, continues to be No. 1 in the Big East in both scoring (20.7 ppg) and rebounding (11.3).

If he maintains his double-double pace, coach Bob Huggins thinks the sizzling senior should be voted Player of the Year for 2011-12.

His current averages rank him 15th nationally in scoring and No. 5 in rebounding.

Jones, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward from Mt. Vernon, N.Y., is shooting 55.7 percent from the field and 74.3 percent from the free-throw line.

He’s the chief reason the Mountaineers are 15-5 overall and 5-2 in the conference going into Wednesday’s game at St. John’s (8-11, 2-6 Big East).

After Jones had 26 points and 13 rebounds in last Saturday’s 77-74 overtime win against Cincinnati, Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin paid tall tribute to the Mountaineer marvel.

“That guy plays hard on every play every day,” he said. “And everybody tells me that everybody doesn’t have that fortitude.

“Everybody doesn’t have his confidence. Everybody doesn’t have that discipline. Everybody goes to their jobs every day but that’s not the same.

“We all don’t have the same places in life.”

Cronin, a former assistant under Huggins at Cincinnati, said that a player can make himself a scorer like Jones.

“But you’ve got to learn to score behind the line. Jones has done that and also can hit shots above the rim,” he continued. “He also gets to the foul line.

“So being a great rebounder is something he’s brought into his game. I saw him score and rebound in high school.

“It’s a big difference in college basketball. But (Jones) goes hard on every play every day. Everybody can’t do that.

“The guy is going to play in the NBA.”

Like Huggins, Cronin believes “K.J.” is the best player in the Big East without a doubt.