It is almost impossible to keep up with the shifting standards that Mountaineer fans have for themselves. I know that we’re supposed to be loyal (“Support your team!”). We’re also supposed to not be loyal (“Bill Stewart is a douchebag that has to be fired!”). We’re supposed to have standards (“Bill Stewart’s nine wins per year aren’t enough!”) We’re supposed to not have standards (“How dare anybody insist that Dana Holgorsen has to win ten games a year!”). We’re supposed to be paying customers (“Fans that don’t buy tickets don’t matter!”). We’re supposed to not buy tickets (“Fans staying home are evidence of programmatic collapse!”)
It is very tough to keep track of. Tiptoeing through this minefields is intensely difficult.
Then Kevin Jones decided to explore the NBA Draft. Then, after getting what can only be considered negative feedback about his draft position - meaning he wasn’t promised an selection in the First Round - he decided to return to WVU. But what were the rules for fans on this.
The problem was this: fans wanted to be supportive of Jones, a player who has already given WVU fans a great career. He has been one of only two Bob Huggins recruits that has lived up to the hype (the other being Devin Ebanks). He is obviously beloved. So fans felt the need to encourage Jones to pursue his professional dreams.
“It’s okay if he leaves. He deserves a shot at the payday. He deserves his success. He’s earned it,” was the collective response.
Wishing a beloved player luck is great. It speaks well of our fans that we didn’t have anybody pulling of the rampant douchebaggery on display here. But is supporting what would have been a bad decision really a good thing? Because that’s what Kevin Jones decision to stay in the draft would have been: a bad decision.
A Bad Decision
Almost all of Jones’s numbers were down this year. Some people attribute this to the fact that Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks weren’t playing in front of him anymore, forcing him into a leading man position that he was unaccustomed to after playing third fiddle for two successive seasons. That explanation is right, but the conclusion is wrong. Let’s start with the numbers themselves:
-Made fewer field goals, took more shots.
-Made fewer three pointers.
-Scored less points.
-Assist to turnover ratio worsened.
-Field goal percentage worsened.
-Three point percentage worsened.
-Foul shooting worsened.
Those are the not the numbers of a player destined to make a significant contribution at the NBA level. Those, frankly, aren’t the numbers of a player that’s likely to get drafted.
The biggest problem that Kevin Jones had last season is that he couldn’t hide. He’d spent his first two years at WVU feasting on third defenders, grabbing rebounds, scoring on put backs, occasionally sneaking out for a three, and wrecking opponents with his baseline jumper. That’s his game. That’s Jones in his best possible environment because it lets him play to his strengths. He wasn’t able to do that this season because he was forced to be the team’s statistical leader. It was assumed by everybody that the bulk of the production was going to have to come from Jones. That was probably true. But that doesn’t mean that providing the bulk of the production is what Kevin Jones excels at. His numbers worsened last season because he was effectively playing out of position, being asked to do what he does in a way very different than he’d done during his first two seasons at WVU.
I understand the desire to be supportive. I understand the desire to see the young man make it. But is supporting a plainly bad decision really support at all? It isn’t like any of us were going to have an impact on Jones decision making of course. It isn’t like our support really mattered in any substantive way. All that did were what the NBA professionals told him, and they plainly told him to go back to school. So why did many of us bother telling him something else? What’s to be gained from encouraging a young man to make a transparently bad decision?
We can be fans of the players, of the team, of the institution, and yet not sacrifice our ability to think critically about them.