More Than Just Alumni Game Draws Kevin Jones Back to WVU
FAIRMONT, W.Va. — John Flowers’ WVU Alumni Game has become a focal point of the offseason on the West Virginia athletic calendar, and a major draw for former Mountaineer basketballers in mid-June. However, it’s not just that one contest that keeps players like Kevin Jones coming back to his alma mater.
Following last Saturday’s contest, which featured players from two decades of recent Mountaineer history, Jones discussed the camaraderie that keeps many WVU players coming back to Morgantown in their offseasons.
“It’s a brotherhood,” said Jones, who scored 1,822 points and snared 1,048 rebounds in a stellar West Virginia career that will almost certainly result in school Hall of Fame honors. “You see that from us, down to Teyvon [Myers] , Jaysean [Paige] and Tarik [Phillip] . We all get along with each other and try to help each other out and improve as much as possible.”
Those bonds get renewed not on only Alumni Game weekend, but over much of the summer, when alums make use of WVU’s facilities to work out and prepare for upcoming professional seasons. Those destinations wind up being scattered across the globe, but before departing for those destinations, Jones and many like him are in Morgantown putting in the unseen work that allows them to continue playing for pay.
Some of the ties that are renewed are longstanding — like those Jones shares with Truck Bryant and Da’Sean Butler. The former was alongside Jones for all four years of his career (2009-12), while Butler, who played from 2007-10, helped lead the Mountaineers to a Big East championship and a Final Four appearance in 2010. All of that shared experience leads to familiarity on the court, even when they haven’t played on the same official squad for years.
“We are so used to playing together, we work out together in the summer, it’s natural for us,” said Jones, who is fifth all-time in scoring and fourth in rebounding at West Virginia. “It’s so much fun to have everyone here for one weekend to play against the different generations of Mountaineers and for the fans to see some different match-ups they have never seen before.”
Jones has battled against players like Devin Williams at the game, giving a lot of fun insights into the relative merits of Mountaineers from different eras — and perhaps fueling debates over the strengths of each and how they compare. Once that game is over, though, it’s back to more prep work for the season — a process that is akin to a full-time job.
“It’s twice a day, five times a week,” Jones said of his offseason routine. “There’s shooting and court development in the morning, and then cardio in the afternoon. We play one on one, and full court with some of the guys that are [at WVU] .”
It’s that last that has the attention of a number of Mountaineer fans who are trying to get insights on this year’s roster, and what the 2018-19 Mountaineers will look like. With six new faces on the roster, the team will have a different look from that of a year ago.
“I think they are very talented. They are young but they will learn a lot. They’ll be young but tough,” evaluated Jones, who butts heads with Sagaba Konate on a routine basis in these pick-up games. “He has a lot to like.”
Like many players who participate in overseas leagues, Jones is again looking for the best options himself in the upcoming season. U.S. players tend to jump around a good bit, as Jones did when he joined Nanterre 92 in France for the final 16 games of last season after playing for two months with Baskonia in Spain. He immediately went to work for Nanterre, averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds while earning league player of the month honors for May.
“There are some great opportunities overseas, but I always want to play at home or in the NBA. That’s number one,” said Jones of his outlook for the coming year.