Jones On The Spot

MIP? MOP? MVP? Trying to put labels on the performances of players opens up as many avenues of debate as there are awards, but there's no doubt that Mountaineer forward Kevin Jones is in the running for all of them as his team tries to find a more consistent level of play in 2010.

First, a word about what this column is not. It's not a slam at Da'Sean Butler, who certainly takes the "most versatile" title on this year's WVU team, and is a clear candidate for league and national honors. It's not a knock on Devin Ebanks, who has had a very uneven sophomore season to date. It's simply meant to appreciate the talents and playing level of Jones, who will likely go unmentioned on the Big East's first team all-conference selections but whose play definitely merits that level of consideration (That's one of the drawbacks of a 16 team league.)

First, a simple look at the numbers. Jones has scored in double figures in every game this year, and it's not because he guns up a lot of shots. He's scored 221 points on just 145 attempts this year, an outstanding ratio that demonstrates his efficiency and good decision making in his offensive game. Only twice has he made fewer than 50% of his attempts from the field, and those marks (43.8% against Coppin State and 45.5% against The Citadel) are certainly no cause for shame. He's hitting 62% overall, and those shots aren't just the lay-ups and short stickbacks he gets from offensive rebounds, although they are a major part of his game.

That's just scratching the surface. He has 110 rebounds (including a staggering 56 on the offensive end, and has three double-doubles this season. He takes care of the ball, turning it over just 17 times. He stays on the court, having fouled out just once while playing an ever-increasing number of minutes as the season progressed. He's making 44.7% of his three-point attempts. The list goes on and on.

It's not those statistical measures that make Jones stand out, however. It's his willingness to listen, to learn, and to improve. Every time head coach Bob Huggins is asked about Jones, the first thing he says is that Jones is extremely coachable. He does, or tries to do, what the coaches ask. He doesn't try to go outside the bounds of his abilities. And he works on things that he needs to improve upon.

Take the statistical measures, and add them to the qualities enumerated by Huggins. does that make Jones WVU's MVP to this point? He's certainly the team's most improved player, even though he wasn't starting from ground zero by any means. He's added consistent three-point range and better defense, as well as more ferocious rebounding, to his arsenal this year. If you want to quibble about the definition of MVP (Butler would be the other player in the mix) could you call him the Most Outstanding Player?

Of course, it's probably not a matter of great import to pick the players to fill those awards just now, at least from an honors standpoint. However, in another sense, it might be.

West Virginia is in desperate need of leaders if it is to keep its place high in the national rankings and contend for Big East championships. It has Butler, who has sacrificed to fill in at point guard and take on tough defensive assignments. It has Mazzulla, whose toughness and willingness to fight through adversity is certainly an inspiration. But there's something still missing from this team -- a player that can inspire others to play hard and efficiently from the outset. A player that can show teammates that they have to do the right things, all the time, in order to achieve their goals. Jones has certainly done that on a personal level. Will everyone take that cue and apply it to their play, and to the team as a whole? If they do, then you can put just about any of the labels you want on Jones -- right alongside the ones he's already earned.


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