NEW YORK — Kevin Jones tested the NBA waters after his junior season at West Virginia.
After getting feedback from NBA executives, the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Mount Vernon, N.Y., native opted to return for his senior season, and it has turned out to be a wise move.
Jones leads the Big East in both scoring (20.9 ppg) and rebounding (11.6 rpg) and is the odds-on favorite to be named Big East Player of the Year.
“Not once have I really thought about that,” Jones, 22, said after going for 23 points and 14 rebounds Wednesday in the Mountaineers’ 78-62 loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. “I just want to continue to keep on playing well so my team will do well.
“My team goals are, of course, a Big East championship and a national championship, which have always been my goals since I got in college so those continue to be my goals and [I’m] just going to continue to keep on working.”
Coming from “Money Earnin’ Mount Vernon” and West Virginia, Jones certainly has the pedigree to make it in the NBA.
Coached by Bob Cimmino, Mount Vernon High has produced NBA players Ben Gordon, Gus Williams, Ray Williams, Earl Tatum and brothers Scooter and Rodney McCray.
West Virginia, meanwhile, has recently churned out Da’Sean Butler, the No. 42 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, and Devin Ebanks, the No. 43 pick.
A ferocious competitor and committed rebounder, Jones is currently ranked No. 52 among the Top 100 prospects on DraftExpress.com.
“He might not get drafted very high on draft night but he’s going to stick around in the league for a while,” Jonathan Givony of Draft Express said on “Courtside With Seth Davis.” “He plays great defense. He rebounds, he’s a winner.
“Not the biggest guy in the world, not the best athlete, but when it’s all said and done, like Udonis Haslem or a Chuck Hayes, he’s going to be playing in the league for a long time.”
Jones ranks fourth nationally in rebounding and had led his team in scoring and rebounding in 15 of 21 games entering Saturday’s game at Syracuse.
“Kev Jones has played like every bit of [the Big East Player of the Year],” Mounties point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant said. “He’s been a monster on the boards. He’s been scoring the ball down in paint, hitting his jump shots that he usually hits. And it’s just good for me as his roommate to see him doing so well this year.”
Jones has flourished despite playing alongside a team loaded with freshmen, something that has caused head coach Bob Huggins more than a little frustration.
“I asked all our guys that think they’re so good, you know I said, ‘Let me ask you guys something,'” Huggins said. “‘Where would we be without No. 5? What do you think our record would be without him?’
“I mean, he’s 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 still the numbers that he gets. That’s pretty good when they can’t pass him the ball.”
Wait until he gets to the league and his teammates can.
Adam Zagoria of Zags Blog covers the future stars of the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. His column usually appears every Saturday, but the NBA ruled the site yesterday. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamZagoria.