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Kevin Jones DOESN'T win Big East Player of the Year, and that's a travesty

By Jude

I am biased.

Make no mistake- Kevin Jones is my favorite WVU basketball player of all time. I love his game, the way he carries himself on the court, the way he interacts with his teammates and WVU fans, his humility, and his tenacity.

Tonight, word leaked out that my favorite player will not win the Big East Player of the Year Award, finishing second to Jae Crowder of Marquette, and as you may imagine, I have a few things to say about that.

First, lest you write off this rant as the baseless complaints of a wronged fanboy, let me give you some numbers:

- 3

That's the number of players in the history of the Big East conference to lead the league in both scoring and rebounding, after Kevin Jones did it this season. The other two were Notre Dame's Troy Murphy (2000 and 2001) and Luke Harangody (2008)

Both Murphy and Harangody won Big East Player of the Year.

- 1

That's the number of players in the nation that averaged a 20/10 this year- Kevin Jones.

WVU couldn't have asked more of him, and he couldn't have given more in return.

- 20 vs. 17.6

That's the scoring averages of Kevin Jones and Jae Crowder, respectively.

Fun fact- the closer comparison is to Crowder's teammate, Darius Johnson-Odom who averages 18.3 ppg.

That's right, boys and girls. Jae Crowder DOESN'T EVEN LEAD HIS OWN TEAM IN SCORING. Well, he's dominant in other categories then, right?

- 11.2 vs. 7.9

That's their rebounding averages. Jones is 3rd in the nation in offensive rebounds and is almost exclusively responsible for the fact that WVU's most effective offense is usually a missed shot. (I covered that extensively in this article from last week.)

To his credit, Crowder averaged more steals (and finished 7th in the nation in that statistic), but he also averaged more fouls. Nearly every other statistical comparison of the two is insignificant. Crowder averaged a little over half of an assist more per game than KJ, and KJ shot 3% better from the field and had a few more blocks.

- 28% vs. 23%

Kevin Jones scores 20 ppg for a team that scores 72 ppg. (28%) Crowder scores 17.6 ppg for a team that scores 76 ppg. (23%)

So with a team that averages fewer possessions per 40 minutes (66.7 to 70.1), Kevin Jones scores more by over 2 full points.

- 18th and 5th
- 53rd and 79th

That's the national ranking of points per game and rebounds per game of Kevin Jones and Jae Crowder, respectively.

One could conceivably be a NATIONAL player of the year candidate. The other would be laughable.

In fact, one player is a finalist for the Wooden Award, given to the nation's best player, and the other hasn't been considered for it all season.

Keep in mind that these votes come from national media members and not that of anyone in the Big East.


- Intangibles

Obviously, basketball is not a game that can be entirely analyzed by statistics and there is a need to take into account concepts like attitude, leadership, work ethic, etc.

And I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on these intangibles with Jae Crowder. I haven't watched enough Marquette games to have an opinion one way or the other.

But I can tell you that it's not remotely possible that any player in the NATION brought more to the table from an intangibles standpoint than Kevin Jones did this year. The Mountaineers' best player doubled as Big East Babysitter of the Year as WVU shepherded a whopping SEVEN true freshman through a season that saw them finish 8th in the conference.

Every freshman mistake was met with a pat on the back and an encouraging word from the senior who led by example, both in practice and in games.

Bob Huggins noted in several recent interviews that he believes WVU would've had a hard time winning even one game this season without Kevin Jones' efforts both on and off the court.

Work ethic? How about this anecdote from Bob Huggins in an AP article:

Kevin Jones’ blue-collar work ethic made an early, lasting impression on West Virginia coach Bob Huggins.

A few weeks after arriving on campus in 2008, Jones’ ride to a summer conditioning session didn’t show up. The scrawny freshman ran nearly a mile from a residence hall and reached the basketball team’s weight room soaking in sweat.

“He said, ‘I had to run over here. I didn’t want to be late,’ Huggins recalled recently. “That’s been K.J. for four years.”

You think that's the sort of thing that rubs off on teammates?

No team asked more of a player than WVU asked of Jones this season, either. Jones was 7th in the nation in minutes per game for several reasons:

1) He had no real backups available after Pat Forsythe and Kevin Noreen went down with season-ending injuries,
2) Without his rebounding and interior defense, WVU would be eaten alive inside, and
3) Coach Huggins couldn't trust the freshmen on the team to make any in-game adjustments without Jones and Truck Bryant on the floor.

And on top of all this, Kevin Jones carries himself with more class and exhibits more sportsmanship than any basketball player I've ever seen at ANY level. (Seriously- do a Google Images search of "Kevin Jones WVU" and count how many pictures feature him smiling.)

Just one of many images you'll find of Kevin Jones playing basketball the way it's meant to be played.

He never has a moment where his emotions get the better of him on the court. Never gets a technical foul. Never makes an embarrassing statement to the press after a game. Never had a single off-court incident worth any mention.

He's the model student-athlete in all of collegiate athletics, and West Virginia Mountaineer fans should be and are extraordinarily proud that he's represented our university for four years.

Which leads us again to the question...

How in the hell is he not Player of the Year in a conference he dominated?

Argument- Marquette finished 2nd in the Big East and won 13 of its last 15 games, while WVU finished 8th and lost seven of its final 11, so Crowder deserves the award.

This is a team award now? I thought they gave out a different trophy for that. If the award is for best teammates, I would say that this year, Crowder probably wins in a walk.

Obviously team success has some component of being a player of the year, as you wouldn't want to award some guy that was just grabbing stats on a bad team. (A guy who Kenny Smith on TNT refers to as a "looter in a riot.")

But WVU is an NCAA Tournament Team with SEVEN FRESHMEN (six true freshmen) playing significant minutes this season. The leading scorer in that bunch gets less than 8 points per game, and the leading rebounder among them is a point guard.

Kevin Jones' second-best teammate is a shoot-first, turnover-challenged point guard that shot a ghastly 37% from the field for the season.

And just to refresh your memory if you're wondering who Crowder's second banana is, please remember that Jae Crowder DOESN'T EVEN LEAD HIS OWN TEAM IN SCORING. Darius Johnson-Odom does at 18.3 ppg.

And his team's success is more attributable to him than Jones' is to his? Get the eff-word out of here. Let's boil this down to what it's REALLY about...

Political vengeance

I suppose Mountaineer fans never should have believed that Kevin Jones ever even had a realistic chance of winning this award, no matter how superior his measurable statistics were to any other player. (In a way, I'm a little ashamed that I allowed myself to believe that I didn't see the inevitability of the shaft he was going to receive.)

WVU fans recieved an indication that Jones was probably going to get screwed as early as late Saturday, as word leaked that Jones was not a unanimous All-Big East First Team selection, meaning that some coach left him off the ballot entirely.

(Put another way- there's a coach in the Big East that either thinks that Kevin Jones wasn't one of the best TWO forwards in the Big East this year, or has a Paul Bunyon-sized axe to grind against Huggins/WVU.)

Just ask WVU quarterback Geno Smith about fair play in Big East postseason awards this year. Smith lost the Big East Offensive Player of the Year award despite having 1,700 (!) more yards passing than any other QB in the Big East, 9 more touchdowns, the fewest interceptions of any full-season starter, all while leading the conference's BCS representative.

(The winner of that award, Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead had a solid season, rushing for 1259 yards and 12 TD's, but only led the league in rushing by 100 yards. Statistically speaking, he wasn't that much more valuable than Lyle McCombs of UConn. Who? Exactly.)

So with two measurably superior seasons by West Virginia University athletes being passed by their own in-conference voting mechanisms, whatever outside influence could there be that might be weighing on these decisions???

Do you think that it could be possible that Big East members are holding a grudge because West Virginia University and the Big East have been involved in a nasty divorce over the last 8 months that led to WVU paying a 20 million dollar buyout to leave the Big East to join the Big 12 next season?

Until I hear an intelligent reason why anyone in the Big East would give the Player of the Year Award to Crowder over Jones, I don't see any other rational explanation.

The butt-hurt Big East rewards a guy who didn't score, rebound, or defend as much and was less important to his team, just like they did in football with Geno Smith. But hey, it's good to see that the Big East is rewarding loyal, storied programs like Cincinnati football and Marquette basketball with trophies that belong to WVU players.

For four years, Kevin Jones has worn a patch on his jersey bearing the Big East's logo, and for four years, he's poured his heart out and represented the league with nothing less than the utmost in ability, effort, class, and dignity. And in this, his crowning season, a season that is statistically historic in the annals of the storied Big East, the Big East is settling a political vendetta by passing him over for recognition.

As Bob Huggins noted on his Twitter page, it's tough to accept that some things you can't control:

The older I get the more I realize the only thing you can control is your attitude. Our team is really disappointed for KJ but we plan on controlling our attitude and having a great attitude towards this Big East Tournament.

A very diplomatic response by Huggs, demonstrating that he and Kevin Jones are classier than the league they're associated with these days.

Ultimately, I realize that this award isn't THAT big of a deal to most of the American sports-loving public. (Do you know who won last year? If you said Ben Hansbrough, you have a better memory than I do. It's worth noting that many at the time argued that UConn's Kemba Walker deserved the award- also having a statistically superior season to the ultimate winner- while it was given to Hansbrough, presumably because he, like Crowder, was a member of a team that finished higher in the Big East standings than Walker's Huskies. So maybe it really is only about the team.)

But when you've got a guy that does EVERYTHING for his team both in terms of on-court production, leadership, intangibles, etc., and he gets passed over for a guy that didn't have nearly the measurable impact on his team (in fact, not even leading that team in the most important statistic in basketball), something is horribly, horribly wrong with the process.

As I said at the outset, I know I'm biased.

But that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

[NEXT DAY EDIT: Coach Huggins weighs in:]

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Poster Thread
Posted: 3/6/2012 12:24 am  Updated: 3/6/2012 12:24 am
Suspected Punter
Joined: 5/3/2009
From: Morgantown, WV
Posts: 100
 Re: Kevin Jones DOESN'T win Big East Player of the Y...
Great post...maybe after the season do a wire about this, at least then I might be able to crack a smile about all of this
Posted: 3/6/2012 3:03 am  Updated: 3/6/2012 3:03 am
Grant Ave. Warrior
Joined: 5/4/2008
From: Morgantown
Posts: 909
 Re: Kevin Jones DOESN'T win Big East Player of the Y...
Sad but true
Posted: 3/8/2012 2:05 pm  Updated: 3/8/2012 2:05 pm
Pitt Hater
Joined: 8/22/2006
From: Spartanburg, SC via Boone County WV
Posts: 2462
 Re: Kevin Jones DOESN'T win Big East Player of the Y...
i WISH TO GOD that some disgruntled Big Least employee would leak the votes for All Conference and Player of the Year. I would LOVE to see who the two year old of a coach is that didn't vote for KJ for All Conference. Love to. My god, how could someone in a position that is supposed to be teaching these kids sportsmanship and the right way to do things, not be held accountable for taking out their issues with the University's Administrators, and/or the coaches on one of the best young men in the game today. Not to mention his numbers were just gaudy and it shouldnt have been close for the PoY award, but his talent aside, picking on the best of the best as far as attitude and sportsmanship goes, is just disgusting. and the idea that crowder was better is just paper thin. i see right through it. had nothing to do with points, rebounds, leadership, commitment or flat out balls to the wall hustle. It was clearly about internal big east politics, not liking coach Huggins, and/or jealousy that we got clear of this mess of a conference and they are stuck there. I would bet anything that at least two coaches didnt put KJ on their ballot. Pitino and Buzz. Jilted lover syndrome. disgusting.


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