MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The cameras and voice recorders were all pointed at Kevin Jones on that November day in 2011, hanging on every word after he set West Virginia’s career record for offensive rebounds.
“I just want to thank my teammates,” Jones began, before a big smile broke out across his face. “for missing all of those shots for me to rebound.”
Jones still laughs about the moment seven years later.
“That was a spur of the moment thing. I didn’t have that planned out,” he said. “If you really think about it, I wouldn’t have been able to get that record if they didn’t miss a bunch of shots.”
That includes some of his own misses, as Bob Huggins liked to emphasize..
“The funny thing is, Coach Huggins used to get on me all the time for missing a layup and then rebounding it. He accused me of padding my rebounding stats all the time.”
With center Sagaba Konate setting the school mark for career blocked shots in last Saturday’s victory against Pitt, he joined Jones and Jevon Carter in a memorable trio who were recruited by Huggins and embarked upon setting West Virginia school records.
Konate now has 191 blocks, one more than former standout D’Or Fischer, who achieved his mark in two seasons under John Beilein.
“We’ve got the best shot-blocker over there in the country,” West Virginia forward Esa Ahmad said of Konate. “He really makes our job on defense a lot easier.”
Jones surpassed Chris Brooks for the offensive rebounds mark and finished with 450 of them for his career.
Before being drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies, Carter became the school’s career steals leader with 330. Carter missed the school’s all-time assists mark by 15.
“We’ve been blessed,” Huggins said. “We’ve been fortunate to get guys that were under the radar recruiting wise, but had a great desire to be good. They listened, they worked and they put time in. That makes it a lot easier.”
None of the three came in as freshmen expecting to make a march on the record books.
“Of the three of them, Kevin was probably a little more polished coming in. He was a little more heavily recruited,” West Virginia assistant Larry Harrison said. “All three guys had very similar work ethics. They were the first ones to get in the gym and the last ones to leave. All three guys wanted to get better.
“As far as their records, Sags just has a natural ability to block shots. That wasn’t something we taught him. K.J. had the combination of buying into the way we coach rebounding and then he had the intensity to keep getting better. J.C. just spent so much time in the gym. He was never complacent with where he was at with his game.”
Jones has worked out at West Virginia’s practice facility with Konate and Carter and was impressed with how both players continued to improve.
“I know Sags is only a junior, but if you look at him now compared to when he was a freshman, it’s night and day on how different he is,” Jones said. “It was the same with Jevon. He was 100 times better as a senior than when he was a freshman.”
Jones is from Mount Vernon, N.Y. Carter is from just outside of Chicago. Konate grew up playing soccer as a kid in Mali, Africa.
Harrison called them three different personalities who were all similar as far as being coachable.
“Out of the three, the only one we had to take a different approach with was Sagaba, and that was only because of the language barrier,” Harrison said. “He understood English, but when it got to practicing and speeding everything up, it was tough on him to begin with, because he didn’t have that experience of communicating in that kind of environment.
“Really, all three guys were very coachable. We told them how to get better and then they put in the work on their own.”
The old saying with records is that they’re made to be broken.
How safe are the marks set by Jones, Carter and Konate?
“I would think from a guard’s standpoint that Jevon’s record might be tough to break,” Harrison said. “Big guys come along all the time looking to rebound and block shots. I think Jevon’s record could be safe for a while.”
Jones isn’t interested in watching another player break his WVU record.
“Of course I want to be No. 1 forever, he said. “If someone comes along and breaks it, I would tip my hat to them, but hopefully no one breaks it.”
If someone did, maybe he could thank his teammates for missing so many shots.
“No, they can’t steal my line,” Jones said. “They’ll have to come up with their own.”