MORGANTOWN — “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes—not that you won or lost—but how you played the Game.” — Sports writing great Grantland Rice
Grantland Rice, perhaps the greatest sportswriter ever, did not know West Virginia basketball player Kevin Jones, but he could have been writing about him when he penned those famous words.
In an era of flamboyance, Kevin Jones has been … well, plain old Kevin Jones.
This has been a time when the likes of Chad Ochocinco or World B. Free or Ron Artest or Dennis Rodman have turned professional sports into a circus without a ringmaster, taking the lines of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, John Daly and Bill “Spaceman” Lee and stretching them into areas they never dreamed of exploring.
Grantland Rice would have hated them.
Professional sports have evolved from a competition of athletic skills into a form of entertainment in which the winner and the loser isn’t always on the scoreboard. Indeed, the ultimate box score is found on the financial sheet and having as simple a nickname as K.J. and having your picture on a bubblegum card rather than a post office wall is not automatically an asset.
That is why, no matter how well he succeeded in college — and the man was one of the leading career scorers and rebounders in the history of West Virginia — he had virtually no chance at being drafted and given a major signing bonus and guarantee in the NBA.
If his physical gifts weren’t quite up to the other 60 athletes who were drafted, his ability to compensate for it was enough to become a four-year starter on a team that would reach the Final Four.
He did it the right way, too, via hard work and dedication, and did it without shooting off his mouth, wearing outlandish hairdos or tattoos and while keeping a team focus.
In a sport where personal expression is valued above all else, Kevin Jones was a team performer … and that is why he will fit himself into the National Basketball Association and have a long and lucrative career.
Will he be a star?
You look at LeBron James or Dwayne Wade or Kobe Bryant and you know he isn’t that kind of player.
When WVU had Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks he was a complementary player to them, quietly filling a necessary role as the Mountaineers became national contenders.
Kevin Jones can do exactly the same thing in the NBA.
His average of 19.9 points a game and 10.9 rebounds a game in the Big East translate into an ability to be a solid NBA player, a contributor on contending team.
More important, his attitude and approach is what makes Kevin Jones a special player, the kind of player who can play on a team where he is not the focal
point, where maybe even he comes off the bench, where he doesn’t take the game winning shot but he might be able to rebound it and put it back up if it is missed.
Kevin Jones didn’t complain about not being drafted. He didn’t knock those who passed him over, point fingers at his agent and claim he let him down.
Not at all.
He did what you have to do in such situations, moved forward.
“Thanx to the Cleveland Cavs for believing in me and my abilities, so it’s off to the Cavs I go!!!” he wrote on his Twitter account.
So what do the Cavs get in Kevin Jones?
Perhaps the best thing you can say is that they get a typical Bob Huggins player.
“A lot of those teams that have had my guys previously say they come to play all the time. K.J.’s going to be a guy who will play in the dog days when a lot of other guys won’t want to play,” Huggins said before the draft.
They get a smart player, too, even if he isn’t as fluid as most NBA players.
“He doesn’t win a beauty contest,” is the way his agent, Bill Neff, described him to a Cleveland reporter.
What he does do is win a beauty contest when other players are off getting into trouble or taking time off, because with Jones you get a player who will be there when you need him and who will give you what he’s got, which is a lot in this day and age.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.