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Interest in Jones has spread to several NBA teams

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Two teams have promised to take West Virginia's Kevin Jones in tonight's NBA Draft, which lasts two rounds and 60 picks.

One team with a first-round pick has reiterated its commitment to taking Jones somewhere in the draft. A second team has since stepped forward and vowed to use a pick it holds early in the second round to select the 6 foot, 6 inch, All-Big East forward.

The first night of the rest of his life figures to be interesting for Jones and a variety of outcomes remain in play.

No matter what happens once the draft begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN, Jones' agent, Bill Neff, knows the ultimate outcome.

"Wherever he gets drafted, whether he gets drafted, whatever happens, the kid is going to make it and have a 12-year NBA career," Neff said. "He gets it and I think one team is going to get that."

What else is an agent supposed to say, right? And it was Neff who spent time in the final few days before the draft spreading the word about the promises made to his client. It probably shouldn't be alarming.

Then again, consider the roots of the relationship between Neff and Jones and his older brother and de facto advisor, Gerard. The Joneses lived in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and Neff and Saga Sports are based nearby in New York City.

Neff first got to know Kevin Jones when Jones was in sixth grade and kept an eye on him ever since.

"He was in the 12th grade at the Syracuse elite camp and I absolutely hated him," Neff said. "I thought he had mechanical problems and no upside.

"Then I met Gerard in (Kevin's) freshman year and he was talking about how Kevin was going to be this and that and I remember thinking to myself, 'There's no way. He's terrible.'"

So many years, points, rebounds, wins and rewards later and it was Jones who pursued Neff.

Neff further highlights the irony by pointing out that he usually works with the unheralded players and said he has represented more NBA players who made it there by way of the developmental league and the old CBA than anyone else.

"All he did was prove me wrong every step of the way," Neff said. "People keep saying, 'This is his limit,' but the guy continues to overachieve and exceed expectations. I think the only reason he isn't in the first 20, as he should be, let's say statistically, is because he isn't a sexy pick. He's flat-out kind of bland. But at some point the head-to-head numbers and the head-to-head matchups have to matter."

Neff points out the 28 points and 17 rebounds Jones had against Baylor and presumed lottery pick Perry Jones III, who had four points and 10 rebounds. The only player projected to be taken before Jones who topped Jones' 19.9 points per game is Tennessee Tech's Kevin Murphy (20.6). The only player projected ahead of Jones with more than his 10.9 rebounds per game is Kansas forward Thomas Robinson (11.9).

Jones tried to show what he was made of in auditions against his peers in workouts for the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs. Only the Lakers and Spurs are without a first-round pick.

Everything started, though, in the pre-draft combine in Chicago, where Jones was measured at 6-6, which was two inches shorter than he was listed in college. Jones ended up changing another number from college, too, when the career 31.5 percent shooter from 3-point range made 9 of 15 attempts from behind the NBA line.

"The Bulls told me he was one of the five best shooters of the 52 kids that came in," Neff said. "He can shoot. It's ugly. I won't tell you I'm going to teach my son to shoot that way, but it goes in."

Jones moved onto the team workouts, but complicated matters during his day with the Celtics. Jones performed very well against a group of forwards projected to go before him, like Michigan State's Draymond Green, St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson and Virginia's Mike Scott.  

"Every time he went somewhere after that to get a good workout, nobody would work out against him," Neff said. "Somehow we kept getting workouts against guys we hadn't signed up for. The guys we did sign up for all came up lame or had a concussion. Everywhere we went we couldn't get the workout we wanted because guys were ducking him. But, hey, the players know."

That may end up being the key for Jones, who was mostly consistent throughout his four years with the Mountaineers and showed the same skills from his first season through his last. He shoots a high percentage from inside the arc with an accurate jumper and a quick release and a soft touch under the basket. He's an active rebounder, particularly on the offensive end. He's not a great perimeter shooter or a swift defender and he doesn't reliably create his own shot.

A team selecting Jones would already know all that and pick him for what Neff believes Jones already is and can be in the NBA.

"Everyone has the same questions and said, 'Hey, the kid can't do this and can't do that,' but look at all the things he did and I think what you'll most likely see with him is a player like he was at West Virginia," Neff said. "When he was asked to be the man his junior year, he wasn't very good. His senior year, he was the main guy, but he wasn't a great 3-point shooter. What it came down to was if you're making him your go-to guy, he's not as good as when you're making him a complimentary player.

"That's what he is and what I think he has to be. Then he can become like he was his sophomore year, when he was the third guy, when he was Chris Bosh, if you will, with Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks. Kevin was very good and had his best year and that's what I think he is and what he'll be because he's solid and does all the little things a team will need."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.

 


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