Different Role

After making a big contribution in the Mountaineers' exhibition game against Mountain State University, sophomore forward Kevin Jones got the first start of his career when he replaced sophomore forward Devin Ebanks in the team's season opener against Loyola University of Maryland.

However, Jones' start did not come under ideal conditions. The sophomore was asked to step in for Ebanks because the usual starter was missing the game due to personal issues.

"I was shocked," said Jones. "I didn't know the situation and what was going on. I am just happy that they would put me in that spot in place of him. It is always a good feeling to go out there and start. I was just happy that we came out with a win because we had a slow start in the beginning and I was just happy we picked it up in the second half."

With Ebanks' return still up in the air, Jones has to prepare not knowing if he will be called upon to start in the Mountaineers' game on Tuesday against the Citadel or if he will be back to his usual role of first man off the bench. Jones has excelled in that role, so much so that he earned notice from head coach Bob Huggins following the Mountain State game. Huggins noted that having a "game-changer" off the bench is just as important as starting, and that Jones was so valuable in that role that he might stay there even though his play made him good enough to be considered for a starting assignment.

For his part, Jones is trying to be prepared no matter what comes his way.

"My mindset is the same way that it has always been," said Jones. "Just to be prepared to get in the game and play at whatever position that they ask me to. That's always been my mindset and it's not going to change. I'm not sure how long [Ebanks] is going to be out. I'm just going to do the best I can to try and fill his shoes.

"Everyone wants to start," he continued. "Everyone wants to be a starter. I am just happy with whatever role that coach gives me and I am going to go in and try my best. I definitely felt comfortable [out there]. Starting is a new feeling for me. I need to take my time and get more relaxed out there and I will be fine."

Another player who impressed in filling the inside void was freshman forward Dan Jennings. Jennings brought defensive fire to the game, which complemented Jones' offensive play. The duo combined for 23 points and 19 rebounds to help give the Mountaineers a solid presence in the lane on both ends of the court.

"People expect a lot more out of you once they see what your potential is," said Jones of Jennings' debut. "I am sure that [Jennings] will live up to that. I am sure he will keep playing hard and working hard and that's all he has to do. I am proud of him and the way he played."

Jones has a close relationship with fellow sophomores Ebanks and Darryl "Truck" Bryant, as the trio all hails from the New York metro area. That helped keep any awkwardness about Jones appearance in Ebanks' spot to a minimum.

"He congratulated me," said Jones of Ebanks' reaction. "He just told me to keep playing hard and that's what I'm going to try and do. I didn't really know him in high school. I knew of him in high school and I knew he was a really great player. Now, it's a really great friendship and we hang out a lot. We live together so that bond is there. He, Truck, Casey [Mitchell] and I all live together, so the bond is there for all of us."

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