By Tom Ballato
When you think West Virginia basketball, you think of all the greats that have sported the uniform, Jerry West, Da’Sean Butler, Rob Hundley, Will Robinson, Jevon Carter, and there is Kevin Jones.
Jones who hails from Mount Vernon, New York, led his high school team to two New York State PHSAA Championships. He committed to play at West Virginia over Ohio State, Indiana, University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), and Pittsburgh, schools that recruited him. In 2008, he appeared in 35 games as a freshman in a reserve role off the bench. In almost just over 19 minutes per game, he averaged 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He scored 1 point in the team’s NCAA Tournament loss to Dayton.
After his freshman year, Jones was a mainstay in the starting lineup. His sophomore year, would end up being a huge year overall for Jones and West Virginia. He averaged 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in 33 minutes. That year the Big East Conference had eight NCAA Tournament teams. West Virginia finished third in the conference, but won the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden (MSG), which was a homecoming for Jones. “My fondest memories from my time at West Virginia would have to be between winning the Big East Tournament or going to the Final Four that same season. For me it would probably be more of winning the Big East Tournament because it was in New York, where I am from, and I got to win it in front of friends and family, so that was really special to me.”
West Virginia that season entered the NCAA Tournament as a #2 seed. They beat the likes of #15 Morgan State, #10 Missouri, #11 Washington, #1 Kentucky before losing in the Final Four to #1 Duke, who went on to win the National Championship that year. Jones finished the tournament with 67 points and 38 rebounds in 6 tournament games.
Jones’ best year came in 2011-2012 during his senior season. He played 38.3 minutes per game while averaging 19.9 points and 10.9 rebounds a game. Jones was named to the All-Big East first team.
Jones went on to finish his career at West Virginia with 1,822 points (13.1 per game) and 1,048 total rebounds (7.5 per game). He ranks 5th in career scoring, 4th in career rebounds, and 1st in offensive rebounds with 450. West Virginia made the NCAA Tournament each year that Jones played on the team.
When asked about his toughest matchups in college, the rivalry with Pittsburgh, was something Jones looked forward to. “I’ll alway say our toughest matchup was Pittsburgh because of the rivalry, the backyard brawl. That was our toughest game whether they were a good team that year or we were a really good team that year it was always going to be a battle between us.” As for Jones’ toughest person he had to guard, DeJuan Blair.
When asked about what advice from coach Huggins that still resonates with him today, Jones responded, “Always work hard no matter how you are feeling and continue to get better each day. Overall, he made me accept responsibility as a man and like I said continue to get better each day.”
NBA and NBA D-League
After graduating West Virginia, Jones went undrafted in the 2012 NBA Draft. He agreed to play summer league with the Cleveland Cavaliers and was signed in the fall to a partially guaranteed deal. He ended up getting waived and signed on to play with the Canton Charge, who are Cleveland’s D-League affiliate.
After 3 games with the Charge, Jones had averaged 27 points and 13.7 rebounds per game, he was re-signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He would spend the rest of the year with the team or on assignment with the Charge.
While on the Cavaliers, he appeared in 32 games and averaged 3 points per game. When asked what he worked on with Cleveland, Jones said, “I always found an area of my game to work on and get better at, but that year was learning on how to be pro. There is so much free time before a game you only had about an hour to practice and you are pretty much on your own the rest of the day. In college, you had three hour practices, study hall, and you had classes. Managing your time and learning how to be a pro on and off the court.”
Although he didn’t have a defined role in Cleveland, Jones emphasized, “I knew my role coming in. I wasn’t going to get a pretty big amount of playing time. I was going to contribute anytime I was called upon. We had a pretty young core group of guys. It was Kyrie’s (Irving) second year and Tristan’s (Thompson) second year and I came in with Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller so it was a really young team. My job was to come in and bring energy whether it was in practice or on the bench with the team, just bring energy.”
The following season with Canton, Jones made the Futures All-Star roster for the 2014 NBA D-League All-Star Game. He was bought out of his contract in March of 2014 and began playing professionally overseas.
Professional Basketball Overseas
Jones began his career overseas in the Philippines. He has spent time in France, Serbia, Russia, Spain, and just finished up this past season with Ryukyu Golden Kings in the Japanese B.League.
When asked what he has enjoyed most about playing overseas, Jones responded, “Learning different cultures and seeing different things that I may have not seen if I didn’t have this opportunity play overseas. I’ve gained a lot of basketball brothers throughout each season I’ve been through. Guys who I still stay in contact with ’til this day. I am thankful for that more than anything.”
Kevin compared playing basketball overseas to playing college basketball. Overseas basketball has been very structured. “You don’t see guys scoring 30 or 40 points. I feel overseas is more of a team game and on the big teams you’ll see their main guy score 13 or 14 points at best.”
Jones enjoyed this past season in Japan. He was in Okinawa, Japan, where there were a lot of Americans, the food was great, and the people were really nice. “The situation was really nice, not that it wasn’t in other places I’ve been, but I think I enjoyed Japan the most.”
He stated that he would like to go back to Japan and possibly finish his career there.
The Off-season, Podcast, and Future
Jones is back at West Virginia working out in the off-season with some of his former teammates and fellow alumni. The alumni are around to offer advice and help current players on the team. “We try to provide them with as much insight to the game as possible since we’ve been through it. It is a real big family here.”
Kevin and his former teammates Da’Sean Butler and John Flowers all appear on a podcast called The Final Fourcast! Jones explained how it all started by saying, “It was John’s idea (John Flowers). The podcast isn’t anything more than us saying locker room talk in front of a mic. It is stuff we talk about anyway so why don’t we share all these stories and experiences we’ve had over our time here and also mix it up with real life situations. That is how The Final Fourcast came about.”
This summer, Jones is planning to play with West Virginia’s alumni team (Best Virginia) in The Basketball Tournament. While being asked to play before, this is his first time for Jones playing in the tournament. He is looking forward to playing with his alumni brothers and going out and winning something. The team is really excited to play and well represented by the West Virginia fans according to Jones.
For now Kevin hasn’t decided what is in store for next season. After a long season, he likes to take time off and mentally take his mind off of basketball. He will be working out and preparing for next season, but he won’t decide where he will be playing for another month. He still has summer league and G-League offers, but at this point in his career it is about making money to take care of his family.
“Even though the NBA dream is still alive, I’m more receptive to overseas offers.”