The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 29, 2010

Jones wants to be own player

MORGANTOWN — When this still young basketball season started, West  Virginia’s Kevin Jones came into it thinking he had to be the next Da’Sean Butler when all his coach, Bob Huggins, was looking for was the first Kevin Jones.

The result was that through the first few games he was more like the next Jonathan Hargett, the wonderfully talented freshman that former coach Gale Catlett brought in to try and win a national championship but who took the team down the road to a 1-17 Big East season.

Through the season’s first four games, Jones twice scored 9 points, once 10 and once 12, which was not only un-Butler like but not at all what was expected from Jones.

“It appears Kevin is pressing a little bit. He wants to do good. He wants to do the right thing,” Huggins noted after Saturday night’s coming out party for Jones, which included 22 points in an 82-66 victory over VMI.

No need to wonder why that was. The culprit, Huggins will tell you, was the same culprit that always drives players down the wrong path — us media types.

“Probably you asking him every other day if he was going to be the next Da’Sean didn’t help him any, because he’s not Da’Sean. He’s Kevin Jones, not any more than Da’Sean is Kevin,” Huggins lectured. “Da’Sean can’t do what Kevin did and Kevin can’t do what Da’Sean did. Kevin has to do what Kevin does and that’s what I said at the beginning of the year. When you try to do things that are out of your wheelhouse, that’s bad. Things don’t turn out good and we have guys doing that, trying to be someone they’re not.”

While Huggins’ credentials are rather impeccable when it comes to creating teams and getting the most out of players, it is a stretch to make the media the villain in this soap opera. If Hugs had still been coaching in Cincinnati with Jay Mariotti working as columnist at the Cincinnati Post, maybe he would have had a point. And if Jones were dogged by the New York Post, the tabloid that would undoubtedly have done an illustration of a two-headed player, one head belonging to Jones, the other to Butler, perhaps he would have been right about pressure.

But if Jones was under pressure, it didn’t come from the West Virginia’s journalists in this case.

Far more likely, it was simply a matter of a young man’s mind exaggerating the situation, perhaps as much a case of friends asking him if he can make up for Butler’s departure or Internet postings as much as any imagined media blitz in that direction.

“A lot of people on the outside are putting a lot of pressure on him to put this team on his shoulders,” is the way Joe Mazzulla, the point guard and team leader, saw it. “I think us, as teammates, have to do a better job of helping K.J. and put him in position to make easy baskets and not have to rush his shots.”

Jones admits that he wasn’t himself when the season started, but he says it wasn’t due to pressure.

“Not really,” he said, “because when everybody asks me ‘Are you looking forward to taking Da’Sean’s role?’ I just laugh because nobody can take Da’Sean’s role. No one can do what Da’Sean did for this team. I’m different than Da’Sean. I’m a different player.”

In fact, Jones argues, he doesn’t want to be Da’Sean Butler.

“I’m comfortable in being who I am and going out and playing my game, not trying to be anyone else,” he said.

And if that isn’t good enough?

“I know my teammates have my back,” he said.

Certainly one teammate in particular has taken much of the load off Kevin Jones, and that would be Casey Mitchell, the shooting guard who has suddenly blossomed into one of the most dangerous scorers in the Big East.

Shackled last year with a knee problem and an attitude problem, Mitchell failed miserably to live up to his billing as the National Junior College Player of the Year when he came in to play for Huggins.

As this team began to get a feel for itself, he still was a role player scoring 12 and 12 in each of the first two games, before suddenly exploding on the scene with 31 points against Vanderbilt, 27 against Minnesota and 25 against VMI.

If Kevin Jones was feeling the pressure to pick up the scoring slack in Butler’s absence, he need not feel it any more.

“Casey Mitchell has done that,” Huggins said. “What’d did he average, a point and a half last year? [Actually, 3.5] This year he’s done more than that. He’s averaging more than 20. I think he’s picked up the scoring slack just fine.”

“At first Kevin was trying doing things he hadn’t done before because of the pressure on him but coach told him to be himself. That’s helped him,” he said. “Coach said nobody will be Da’Sean and nobody will be Kevin Jones. They are different types of players. They play different positions.”

“Casey has been a tremendous player because he’s matured so much on and off the court. I’m proud to have him on this team,” Jones said.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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