For the Times West Virginian
West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones was named the Big East Player of the Week.
If they’d had a World Player of the Week he might have won that, too.
Jones played three games for the Mountaineers, facing Tennessee Tech, Missouri State and No. 6/7 Baylor.
All he did was string together three double-doubles, collecting 25 points and 14 rebounds against Tech, 16 points and 13 boards against Missouri State, and then against a tall, athletic front line that Baylor put out there he scored a career-high 28 points with 17 rebounds in overtime.
That’s an average of 23 points and 14.7 rebounds per game.
It thrust him into the Big East lead in both scoring and rebounding as he suddenly has become the leading candidate for Player of the Year in the league as conference play starts this week.
Jones is averaging 21.0 points and 11.9 rebounds a game for the year. He also leads the Big East in offensive rebounding.
But as Coach Bob Huggins has noted, Jones also has become the team leader, an emotional, inspirational player who asks for the ball with the game on the line.
“He’s the guy who came over during the first overtime against Kansas State when we were going to run something for Deniz and who said, ‘Coach, I got a little guy on me. I can score.’ So we switched it and let Deniz throw him the ball and he did score,” Huggins recalled.
Jones isn’t even playing as well as he can.
His outside shooting has not been as good as it had been, hitting just 22.2 percent of his 3-point this year. Two years ago, as a sophomore, he hit 40.4 percent and last year 30.1 percent, certainly a decrease but still far better than this season.
Huggins refuses to panic about it.
“He’ll make shots. He works too had to not make shots,” Huggins said. “He has to get his feet down. He’s got to do a better job with his shot preparation. He’ll be fine.”
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Here’s a side of Huggins that few see but is very real.
The man is extremely charitable.
Someone in his position is approached all the time for donations, but Huggins has decided it is best to concentrate on just two causes that are near and dear to him.
He is involved in the Norma Rae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment and Hospice Fund and the Remember the Miners Scholars Program.
“The endowment we are doing at the Cancer Center in my mother’s name, it makes me feel good,” Huggins explained in an interview last week. “We’ve all been affected by cancer in some form or another. We’ve all had family members ... we’ve all cried because cancer has affected people that we love. It makes you feel good that you’re trying to do something. It makes me feel good that my mother would want that.”
Huggins became interested in the charity to help the miners after the Upper Big Branch mining disaster that claimed the lives of 29 miners in April 2010. Huggins flew there with food and to help comfort the families at the time of the disaster, and it made a huge impression on him.
“When I went down to Montcoal and I went down to Upper Big Branch and you’re there and see the people and you feel the hurt ... I didn’t know what to do. Jason Parsons says we should do a charity to give scholarships to siblings of miners and I thought, ‘Man, that’s a great idea.’
“What else are you going to do?” Huggins continued. “It’s awareness to those great people who risk their lives on a daily basis so the United States can have energy.”
Huggins is involved in those two charities because they are part of the community and the state.
“The endowment in my mother’s name stays right here in West Virginia,” he explained. “It stays right here at West Virginia University. Remember The Miner stays right here in the state of West Virginia and I think that’s important. I’ve done all kinds of stuff and then you look around and say, ‘Where did that money go?’ At least now I know where it’s going. I enjoy that.”
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Why has West Virginia not done better than it has, considering the play of Kevin Jones?
The reason can be found in the Big East statistics and, as anyone can tell you, statistics don’t lie.
The Mountaineers are next-to-last in defense in the conference, only DePaul allowing more points than the 66.3 points a game they allow, and no one shoots free throws worse that WVU’s 61.6 percent, which is tied with Cincinnati for last place.
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Former Mountaineer basketball star Devin Ebanks made his first NBA start on Sunday for the Los Angeles Lakers and had a solid 23-minute performance in an 88-87 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
Ebanks had eight points on four of five shooting from the field and had a rebound, two assists and no turnovers.
He was outscored by 20 points by a teammate named Kobe Bryant, but one suspects that did not diminish the day any for him.
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West Virginia women’s sophomore guard Taylor Palmer was named to the Big East Honor Roll this week.
The Mount Vernon, N.Y., native helped the Mountaineers to a 94-32 win over Mount St. Mary’s last week as she paved the way with a game-leading 21 points on 50 percent shooting (7-14), including four 3-pointers. Her efforts helped WVU record a season-high 60 percent shooting from the field.
Palmer joins redshirt-junior Ayana Dunning as the only two WVU players to earn the weekly honor. The Mountaineers return to action at noon Wednesday at the WVU Coliseum as they take on Bucknell.