Column - KJ needs help for WVU to get back on track
Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 3, 2012 07:02
There hasn't been a lot that has stayed the same since the West Virginia men's basketball team won against Cincinnati on Jan. 21.
One of the only things that has been able to stay constant is the play of Kevin Jones.
The senior forward is in the middle of one of the best seasons of any player in school history. He's currently leading the Big East Conference, is scoring and rebounding and is a favorite to become the school's first Big East Player of the Year.
He's scored at least 20 points in eight straight games and has scored in double figures in every game this season.
And, he's doing all of that while playing just about all 40 minutes every game this season.
In the last 10 games, Jones is averaging 39.5 minutes per game, and he's played at least 40 in each of the Mountaineers' last five games.
He's the only player in the nation scoring at least 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds per game, but he can't even enjoy his personal success.
None of it matters if the team isn't winning.
"I asked all of our guys that think they're so good, ‘Where would (we) be without No. 5? What do you think our record would be without him?'" said head coach Bob Huggins.
"He's been the most valuable player in the country. What he's done – and he's playing with all those freshmen who can't pass and don't pass him the ball – and he still gets the numbers he gets. That's pretty good."
Huggins made those comments after the Mountaineers fell on the road to St. John's. Now, after two more losses in a row to Syracuse and Pittsburgh, those words ring truer than ever.
After averaging more than 75 points per game in the first 20 games, the Mountaineer offense has struggled to get anything going in the last three games, scoring just 63 points per game.
In those three losses, Jones has continued to play well, shooting 45 percent from the field, while averaging 22.3 points and 11.7 rebounds per contest. His 67 points in the three games accounts for 36 percent of the team's total points.
But the rest of the team has gotten worse.
Players not named Kevin Jones are shooting just 35.8 percent in the last three games.
It shouldn't need to be said, but if the Mountaineers want to get back on the winning track, KJ needs some help.
That will start with senior guard Truck Bryant and junior forward Deniz Kilicli.
The Mountaineers' other upperclassmen haven't been scoring the way they were when West Virginia won 15 of its first 20, and getting them back on track an playing well again will be huge for WVU to pick up some momentum.
But when they struggle, like everybody does at one point or another during the grind of the Big East season, some of the younger guys have to do their part to pick up some of the slack.
Until that happens, Jones just has to continue doing what he's doing and hope that things turn around— Because he's doing his part.
"I feel terrible for KJ because he's playing his heart out," Huggins said.
"I know he's trying to win. I have no doubt he's trying to win. The biggest mistake he can make is to try to do more."