The Times West Virginian

March 5, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN - Award no guarantee for WVU star

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones was named to first team, all-Big East on Sunday.

Less than an hour later he was named the conference’s final Player of the Week after leading the Mountaineers to a pair of crucial victories, averaging 20.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in the process.

That wrapped up an amazing regular season in which he became the third player in Big East history, joining Walter Berry of St. John’s and Troy Murphy of Notre Dame, to score a double-double in championships, leading both in scoring (19.0) and rebounding (10.9).

So, you may ask, why does there seem to be much concern in the West Virginia camp?

It turns out that Jones was not unanimous first-team all-Big East in a vote of the coaches, but Marquette’s Jae Crowder, who closed the season in a big way, was.

Suddenly the Player of the Year award that seemed so certain to be his that Jones could have begun building the shelf to hold it, might not be such a sure thing after all.

If Crowder should steal away enough votes to take down the award, WVU Coach Bob Huggins may go berserk, for he has campaigned hard for Jones as Player of the Year.

What made Huggins’ campaign so convincing wasn’t necessarily his argument, although it certainly has real merit, but the conviction with which he sold it.

This wasn’t one of those “give the award to my guy” campaigns.

It was, from a coach who always shoots straight, one of those “give the award to the only deserving guy” campaigns.

In fact, Huggins wasted little time getting on Twitter to express his opinion about whichever coach or coaches left Jones off their all-Big East ballots.

“Can’t imagine which Big East coach didn’t think Kevin Jones was worthy of a vote for 1st team All Big East,” Huggins tweeted. “Only a handful of players in the storied Big East have done what KJ has.”

This follows what he had to say after the DePaul game:

“I don’t think he’s getting the notoriety nationally he ought to get because he’s not a high flier. He does it every day and at the end of the day he’ll get his 20 and 11 and does it on an incredible consistent basis against a tremendous schedule.”

This isn’t even really about the 20 and 11. More important has been what he’s done in a difficult situation, being the old man in a sea of youth.

“Jones has taken a team of eight new guys and put them on his shoulder. We wouldn’t have won a game without him,” Huggins said.

Huggins isn’t alone in his endorsement of Jones.

Another person, one with a bias, admittedly, but who knows up close and personal, which is more than the other voting coaches know, tweeted this Sunday:

“If Kevin Jones doesn’t receive the Big East Player of the Year award this year something is terribly wrong.”

That came from Da’Sean Butler’s personal Twitter account.

True, WVU finished at 9-9

while Crowder played on the nation’s No. 7 team in the last rankings.

But Crowder had a solid cast of experienced players surrounding him as he finished fourth to Jones in scoring in conference games and is ninth in rebounding to Jones.

The award is not the most valuable player award, either. It doesn’t go to the best player on a winning team. It goes to the Player of the Year, the best player in the league, and that was Jones statistically for the numbers he put up and emotionally for the leadership qualities he displayed through both good and bad times, of which the Mountaineers experienced both this year.

That this team didn’t crack is a tribute to the way Jones — and his senior partner, Truck Bryant — wouldn’t allow it to.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.