• By John Antonik
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  • May 08, 2011 09:11 PM
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It was a pretty good weekend for Mountaineer basketball. On Saturday, West Virginia announced that 6-foot-10 center Aaric Murray will join the WVU program for the 2012-13 season and will have two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out next season.

Murray spent the last two years playing at La Salle.

And then earlier tonight, after getting input from pro scouts at an NBA combine hosted by the New Jersey Nets, 6-foot-8 forward Kevin Jones announced that he was returning for his senior season at WVU.

Including Murray, Huggins signed eight players in this year’s recruiting class, but keeping Jones in the fold is by far Huggins’ top recruit. Jones and senior guard Truck Bryant are both 1,000-point scorers (the first time West Virginia is welcoming back a pair of 1,000 point scorers at the same time ever) and the two are the most experienced players on the team.

In fact, only five players with any game experience are returning for the 2011-12 campaign (Jones, Bryant, forward Deniz Kilicli, guard Dalton Pepper and forward Kevin Noreen) making this easily Huggins’ most inexperienced team since his return to West Virginia in 2007. It will be West Virginia’s biggest rebuilding job since John Beilein’s final season in 2007 when he led the Mountaineers to 27 victories and an NIT title.

Last year, Jones averaged 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, playing extremely well down the stretch by producing a season-best 25-point, 16-rebound performance in the regular season home finale against Louisville and adding 15 in a Big East tournament opening round loss to Marquette.

He produced 17 points and nine boards in West Virginia’s NCAA tournament first round victory over Clemson and reached double figures in six of his final eight games of 2011.

“I’m excited about coming back to West Virginia and playing with my teammates for my senior season,” said Jones.

Jones will enter his senior season with 1,165 career points, which currently places him 29th on the school’s all-time scoring list. A productive 2012 will easily get Jones into the top 10 in scoring.

With 688 rebounds, Jones also has a shot of becoming just the fifth player in school history to grab 1,000 career boards. The four in the 1,000-rebound club are Jerry West (1,240), Lloyd Sharrar (1,178), Warren Baker (1,070) and Willie Bergines (1,025).

Baker, a teammate of Huggins at WVU, is the last Mountaineer player to grab 1,000 career rebounds 35 years ago in 1976.

“Kevin went through the process in a systematic and professional manner by exploring his options,” said Huggins. “He was able to gain feedback from NBA professionals that will help him in the future. We’re pleased that he will be a Mountaineer for his senior season.”

Mountaineer Nation is also pleased.