WVU's Kevin Jones hopes to hear his name called at the NBA draft tonight.
MORGANTOWN - Even after 30 years of watching so many of his players and others work toward the same goal, Bob Huggins still remains a bit blurry as to what it takes to get to the finish line.That line itself, of course, is the NBA. But what those scouts and coaches and general managers are looking for in a player sometimes remains a mystery."No, not really,'' the West Virginia coach said when asked if he'd figured it all out yet. "It's all in the eyes of the beholder, I suppose.''Tonight, another of Huggins' players approaches that finish line. The NBA draft will be held in New York and when - or even if - Kevin Jones is chosen remains a mystery.Odds are if he's taken at all it will be in the second of the league's two rounds. Then again, it was only a few months ago that the odds seemed to favor WVU's Bruce Irvin being taken anywhere from the second to the fourth round of the NFL draft. He went on the 15th pick of the first round.No one ever really knows.Huggins, though, dismisses any notion that picking Jones equates to taking a chance. In fact, after watching the burly small forward become one of the top scorers and rebounders in West Virginia history over the last four years, Huggins doesn't see Jones as a risk at all.
"I don't think it's taking a chance,'' Huggins said. "I think you're taking a chance on those guys that haven't proven themselves. What did he have against Perry Jones, 28 [points] and 18 [rebounds]? He's proven himself.''Jones is the Baylor forward who is expected to go in the top 20 picks of tonight's draft, which will be televised by ESPN beginning at 7:30 p.m. In Baylor's overtime win over WVU in December, WVU's Jones had 28 points and 17 rebounds while Baylor's Jones had four points and 10 boards.If Kevin Jones is not picked, it won't be because teams haven't seen him play. Over the last month he has worked out for at least 11 of the league's 30 teams, finishing on Monday in Memphis. He also took part in the NBA Combine in Chicago earlier this month.
The problem is his measurable numbers weren't outstanding. Listed at 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds in college, he measured just over 6-6 in Chicago. His vertical leap was a pedestrian 31 inches.But there's more to the game than just athleticism and size, Huggins said, although even he admits he gets caught up in the tale of the tape sometimes."We all do it,'' Huggins said. "We go watch guys and they run and jump up and dunk it and suddenly we circle them. And then you find out they can't catch. This sport is all about catching the basketball. If you can't do that, you can't play. And K.J. has a great set of hands."I told somebody the other day that he reminds me a lot of Danny Fortsen [who played for Huggins at Cincinnati]. He played 10 years in the NBA and probably could have played a couple more. And Danny couldn't run and jump like they think you have to. There's a place for those guys."And here's another thing. When those other guys don't feel like playing, K.J. will play. He always plays hard. Always.''
If Jones is drafted, it will almost certainly be because he can do one thing above all others - rebound. Huggins compares him to Kenneth Faried, who broke Tim Duncan's career rebounding record in college at Morehead State. As a rookie with the Denver Nuggets this season, Faried averaged 7.7 rebounds in the regular season and 10.0 in the playoffs."I was always told that if you can rebound in college you can rebound in the NBA,'' Huggins said. "Look at what the kid from Morehead State is doing as a rookie in the NBA. And he didn't play against anywhere near the competition in college that K.J. played.''If Jones is drafted, he would become the fourth in the last five years under Huggins at West Virginia, following Joe Alexander, Devin Ebanks and Da'Sean Butler. Prior to those three, WVU had just one player drafted in the previous 20 seasons, Gordon Malone in 1997.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.