To the Top of the Mountain
By John Antonik for WVUsports.com
February 08, 2012 01:46 PM
So, just how good of a senior season is Kevin Jones having? Well, if he scores at least 20 points tonight against Notre Dame he will do something no West Virginia player since Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley has done – score 20 points in 10 straight games.
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West Virginia University Mountaineers
Beginning on Jan. 7 with 22 points (and 16 rebounds) against 12th-ranked Georgetown, Jones has dropped at least 20 in succession on UConn, Rutgers, Marshall, Cincinnati, St. John’s, Syracuse, Pitt and Providence. Keep in mind this is happening right in the heart of West Virginia’s Big East schedule.
Jones, leading the conference in scoring (20.8 ppg.) and rebounding (11.2 rpg.), is also looking to become the first Big East player since Notre Dame’s Troy Murphy in 2000 to lead the league in scoring and rebounding, and only the third player in the 34-year history of the conference to do so (Walter Berry of St. John’s is the other).
“He’s having a great year,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. “He’s scoring and rebounding and he’s a very good defensive player. He’s probably having a good a year, or better year, than anybody in our league this year.”
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey agrees.
“He would be my player of the year candidate right now,” Brey said earlier this week. “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 genesis for Jones’ terrific senior season actually dates back to last year’s Louisville game at the Coliseum when he scored 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds - 11 of those coming on the offensive glass - to help the Mountaineers earn a key late-season win against the Cardinals.
Before that performance, Jones was spending a lot of his time out on the perimeter shooting 3s and playing away from the basket. Now, because he’s so effective around the rim, Jones is becoming almost unstoppable.
Bob Huggins explains.
“He’s taken (377) shots on the year and 105 of them are offensive rebounds, which really means he’s taken 272 shots out of offense and the other 105 shots came out of rebounding the ball,” said Huggins. “And when you rebound the ball that consistently, and when you rebound the ball offensively, you’re going to score, particularly when you finish around the rim the way he does.”
Jones has always been an important offensive option throughout his career – just not the team’s No. 1 scoring option all of the time.
“His sophomore year when he was open we wanted him to shoot it, but he wasn’t the focal point – Da’Sean (Butler) was,” said Huggins. “A year ago, everybody said he had to really pick up the slack and he pressed and I don’t think he’s doing that now. He’s content to take what’s there and if it’s not there he doesn’t take it and he continues to rebound the ball.”
For some perspective, Jones is one of 14 players in college basketball this week averaging better than 20 points per game. However, of those 14, all but five of them are guards and only two (Maryland’s Terrell Stoglin is the other) are playing in BCS conferences. That is a pretty good indication of the type of senior year KJ is having.
“The Big East has had guys with great senior years,” said Brey. “We’ve had guys have great years in this league and he’s another one in a long line of them – clutch guy and he makes his teammates believe.”
And, the face of Kevin Jones is about to be added to Mountaineer Basketball's Mount Rushmore. Entering tonight’s game against Notre Dame, he ranks fifth in career rebounding (957), sixth in career double-figure scoring games (86), ninth in career double-doubles (27), ninth in career field goals made (669), 10th in career scoring (1,665 points) and 10th in career blocked shots (103).
Plus, Jones has an excellent shot of joining Jerry West as the only two players in school history to score more than 1,700 points and grab more than 1,000 rebounds for their careers.
As for approaching a WVU milestone that was last achieved when West strung together 10 straight 20-point games more than 50 years ago in 1960, Huggins says Jones really has other things on his mind.
“I don’t think he cares,” said Huggins. “I think KJ wants to beat Notre Dame and I think that’s his first and foremost focus, and if (tying the record) happens it’s a bonus.
“I keep saying he is what you want a player to be. He really honestly doesn’t care about his stats,” Huggins added. “There is not any difference when he gets 25 and 18 and we win and he gets 12 and nine. He wants to win. He doesn’t want to go out on a team that’s not playing in the NCAA tournament and not playing in March.”
You can watch Kevin continue his quest for a fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance tonight against Notre Dame. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.