KJ and Truck close final chapter of WVU careers
Published: Friday, March 16, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 16, 2012 01:03
As the final seconds ticked off the clock in West Virginia’s 77-54 loss to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tournament, seniors Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant shared a moment at midcourt.
It didn’t look like much; some might not have even noticed it.
But it was two teammates, who, through four years of battle with each other, had become brothers, trying to soak in their final moments on the same court as college teammates.
"It was very emotional just knowing that we were no longer teammates after that point," Jones said. "We won’t have practice, won’t have weights anymore. It becomes so much a part of your life that I don’t think we’re going to know how to handle it at first.
"Knowing that that was my last time in a college basketball game and my last time being teammates with by best friend for four years and all these young guys who have made my life very crazy for this last year, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. These guys are great."
The loss was even more bittersweet for the two Mountaineer seniors who entered their season with high hopes of getting to make one last trip to the Final Four before their careers in Morgantown were over.
But as they walked off the court Thursday for the last time in a WVU uniform, they didn’t get to hold any trophies. They didn’t get to make one last deep run in March like they hoped.
They just left the floor and went into the locker room, while another team celebrated getting to move on to the next round.
"I actually cried. I didn’t cry all season, but I cried tonight," Bryant said. "It was rough. I love these guys, I just don’t want to leave them."
Thursday’s loss marked the end of an up-and-down final season for Jones and Bryant, one that started off looking extremely promising, before coming to a halt and ending in disappointment.
"The way this season was going, you never knew what could happen," Bryant said. "When I saw the lead get to 20, that’s when I knew it was going to be rough to try to come back from, though. There’s a difference when you’re trying to do that in conference play and in this game (in the tournament)."
With the loss, West Virginia dropped to 19-14 to end the season, finishing with fewer than 20 wins for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
It was a very different feeling than the success that Jones and Bryant, who had been a part of a 30-win team two years ago, are used to experiencing.
"It was tough on everybody," Jones said. "Before, we never had to worry about whether we were going to make the tournament. It’s been hard."
Even through all the hard times, neither ever quit leading this young WVU team. When times got rough Thursday, like they had all season, Jones and Bryant did what they could to motivate their younger teammates.
"We just told them to keep on playing," Jones said. "That’s all I was trying to do – just get everybody’s spirits up and tell them to go out there and keep on playing, regardless of the score."