There's a phrase that best describes the attitude with which West Virginia basketball players must approach the practice regime of head coach Bob Huggins, and it shouldn't take any observer long to figure out what it is after speaking to veterans on the squad.

Talk to any junior or senior member of a Huggins squad, and it's going to come out quickly. Whether describing pace of practice, the intensity of defensive drills or the lung-busting stints on the treadmill, these two words carry tons of descriptive power.

"Work hard."

Just ask Kevin Jones, West Virginia's go-to-guy in waiting. The multi-talented junior would seem to be used to the rigors of a Mountaineer workout by now, but the couplet pops up again and again during interview sessions with the well-spoken star.

"We're just going to continue to do what we do to make us better. That's work hard."

"As long as we work hard, we'll be up there at the end of the year."

"I'm excited because everyone is working hard."

It's not that Jones is stuck for another phrase. He's an articulate interview, and certainly doesn't want for vocabulary. It's just that after two-plus years in West Virginia's program, there aren't many words or phrases that haven't been used to describe WVU's practice and preparation. Or maybe it's just better to use short words, the better to save breath for the next round of drills.

No matter the reason, Jones has clearly bought into the approach, as difficult as it may be. He knows that the work he has put in has helped elevate his game to the level of an all-Big East performer. Now, he's hoping that the regimen will have the same effect on others.

"As a team we've come very far [in the preseason]," Jones observed. "We're just learning how to play alongside each other and getting the team chemistry to where it needs to be. We don't have a lot of seniors. We just have to work hard."

* * *

Two players that Jones is watching with particular interest reside alongside him in the paint. While he won't be moving away from his rebounding and second chance scoring opportunities – skills that made him an immediate contributor at WVU – he is hoping to get some support from the big bodies on the Mountaineer roster.

"Last year Wells did a great job at center but we didn't have the guys that we could throw the ball down to at center and get other centers in foul trouble," he related. "We have that this year with Danny and Deniz. That should take some of the scoring and rebounding pressure off the forwards and help us all."

While it might be too much to expect that duo to become instantly dominant players, the progression of West Virginia's inside game will be a key factor in the scoring ability of this year's squad. Racking up second chance points could also be enhanced if WVU can build even more on its impressive offensive rebounding numbers.

Fans, as well as the coaching staff, will get their first look at that when the Mountaineers host UNC-Pembroke on Friday night at the WVU Coliseum. Even though it's a exhibition game, Jones is still looking forward to the contest.

"You always want to go out there and see what we can do and how we look out there. It's an exciting time."

That excitement figures to continue throughout the season, so long as the team continues to – you guessed it -- work hard.

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