The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 28, 2012

Lasting legacy

Jones leaves mark on WVU basketball

MORGANTOWN — It will be difficult to imagine that sometime around 6:45 p.m. today, West Virginia senior Kevin Jones will come striding down the carpet and out onto the Coliseum floor for his final home appearance as a Mountaineer.

He will be met at half court by Darryl “Truck” Bryant, the team’s other senior and his roommate for the past four years. The two will go through their normal routine and then end it with a heart-felt hug before going out to play DePaul in a crucial game that could decide their NCAA fate.

For both, it will be a bittersweet moment, marking the end of a wonderful time in their lives, a time that saw them earn an education and place in the Final Four, a time when Jones became one of the school’s all-time greats and when Bryant became one of the school’s most charismatic and enigmatic players ever.

While Bryant was a hero one day and some days not quite so heroic, Jones became the best player in the Big East by this, his senior year. He leads the league in both scoring and rebounding and is the leading candidate for Player of the Year.

“I don’t think he’s getting the notoriety nationally he ought to get because he’s not a high flier,” Huggins said. “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.”

And to be honest, he does it without a great supporting cast.

“He’s taken a team of eight new guys and put them on his shoulder. We wouldn’t have won a game without him,” Huggins said in answer to the argument that his team is not leading or near the lead in the Big East.

There are a lot of other coaches in the conference who agree with Huggins.

Tonight’s opponent, DePaul coach Oliver Purnell, was asked to describe Jones.

“If I had to describe him it would be one word — warrior. He’s been a warrior since I’ve been in the league. He does what he does. He rebounds, he scores, he leads. He’s an inspiration to his team.”

Jim Boeheim, who coaches the league-leading Syracuse team, put it this way:

“He’s having a great year,” Boeheim said. “He’s scoring and rebounding and he’s a very good defensive player. He’s probably having as good a year, or better year, than anybody in our league this year.”

And even Notre Dame’s Mike Brey agrees, even though he has beaten WVU twice.

“He would be my Player of the Year candidate right now,” Brey said earlier this month. “I’m very impressed with him, and as much as the numbers, I love how he leads and sets the tone when I watch him interact with his teammates. He is such a man. He’s such a mature guy.”

The early days

You have to go back to early days, the days when he was a gangly, rail-thin teen trying to learn the game of basketball.

In those days he would go off on the black top court in Mount Vernon and play one-on-one with his older brother, Gerard, who was about double his age at the time.

Jones was in the eighth grade the first time he beat his brother, probably putting an offensive rebound back into the netless hoop for the

winning shot, as has become his trademark.

“I remember running around the park,” Jones said. “I was so happy that I’d finally beaten him.”

By the time he was in high school he was standing 6-7 and weighing 215 and regularly thumping his brother. A host of schools from Indiana to Pitt were knocking on his door, along with Bob Huggins and West Virginia.

“I kind of had an advantage because of Lowes Moore,” Huggins said, referring to the Mountaineer great from around his playing era who went on to play in the NBA.

Moore was living in Mount Vernon.

“I’d talk to him — he ran the Boys & Girls Club in Mount Vernon — and he’d tell me KJ was a great guy. You see them play on the AAU circuit but you don’t know what people are made of. Lowes knew all the kids in Mount Vernon and he had nothing but great things to say.”

And so Huggs put the full-court press on him.

“We recruited him more because of what I thought he could be than what he was,” he said.

He wasn’t disappointed in any way.

“He told me we would have a great chance to win the national championship if I came here, and I believed him,” Jones recalled. “I came down here on a visit. I loved the atmosphere and the people and everyone was so passionate about their sports here.”

Like Huggins, the school did not disappoint him.

“I never had a second thought. It was better than I imagined,” he said.

And Jones was better than Huggins could ever imagine, in all ways.

“He’s such a good kid,” Huggins said. “I know I keep saying that, but you can’t imagine what a good kid he is. You can’t imagine how much he really cares. A lot of guys give you a lot of BS about how much they care, but actions always say more than words.

“He doesn’t talk a lot, but his actions are the way it’s supposed to be. He’s a little bit like (Joe) Alexander and Da’(Sean Butler), you kind of wonder if there isn’t a time when they should take a day off.

“He’s always in the gym. He wants to get better. It sincerely bothers him if he doesn’t play well. Some of these guys will talk to you guys and tell you how terrible they feel and then they are downtown having a big time.

“He’s not like that.”

And that is what separates him from so many other players that Huggins has had here and at his other stops.

“We’ve had quite a few guys who if they spent more time in the gym and a little less time somewhere else, they’d be a whole lot better off in a lot of ways.”

That was the attitude he brought with him from New York.

“The thing I remember is the second or third week he was here someone was supposed to pick him up and he was afraid they weren’t going to get him on time, so he ran all the way from Lincoln Hall to the weight room to get there on time. It was summer and he was soaking wet from running and I asked him, ‘What’s wrong?’”

“Nothing,” Jones answered. “I ran because I didn’t want to be late.”

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • WVU takes first step Thursday

    Perhaps the most used – and least factual – cliché in sports is as follows:
    “There’s no tomorrow.”

    July 30, 2014

  • Must WVU defense carry offense in ’14?

    The other day the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story under the following headline:

    July 30, 2014

  • smallwood-wendell(1)-2.jpg Charges against Smallwood dropped

     West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.
    It took him only three words to say what was on his mind: “God is Good.” Smallwood is now free to return to West Virginia and rejoin his Mountaineer teammates when they open camp for the 2014 season Thursday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Charges against Smallwood dropped

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.

    July 29, 2014

  • Were Bowlsby’s fears about college athletics’ future justified?

    I have never met or even talked to Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
    But I did read a lengthy story on his 45-minute address to reporters last week on Media Day in Dallas, Texas. Among other things, Bowlsby forecast a startling change threatening the existence of intercollegiate athletics as we have known for these many, many years.

    July 28, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • Seider's brother commits to WVU

    West Virginia University’s football team has received a commitment from one of its own.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides much optimism heading into 2014 season

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • Forsey posts Top 10 finish at World Championships

    Freshman Jillian Forsey of the West Virginia University cross country team finished ninth at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
    Forsey, a native of Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, was representing Team Canada. She was the first Canadian to cross the finish line in the women’s 5,000-meter run, finishing in ninth place overall in 16:02.55.

    July 26, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos