MORGANTOWN - It's been suggested more than once this season in Morgantown: Where has Kevin Jones been?
While that seems like asking where the Sham Wow guy is - right in front of your face, always - those doing the asking aren't doing so in the literal sense.
Jones is averaging 34.2 minutes per game for the season and 36, yes 36, during Big East games, the ultimate grind. The problem is no doubt the rest of the numbers he's put up.
Jones, who averaged 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore, has seen those numbers slightly decrease to 13.2 and 7.1 during his junior season. The point being is that everyone expected those numbers to go up, not down, despite the fall being negligible.
Jones entered this season as a member of the preseason All-Big East team, something that automatically qualifies you as one of the premier players in the nation because the conference is that good, so the expectations were plenty thick.
''K.J.'s going to have games where he gets 25 and 15, I don't think there is any doubt about that,'' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said during the preseason.
Well, that hasn't really happened, mostly because on a team full of deficiencies, defenders know where No. 5 is at all times and stick to him like morning snow on your car windshield.
Jones has had four double-doubles this season (eight for his career), and his highest point total was 22 against VMI on Nov. 27, one short of the career-high he dumped on Cleveland State last season. He had 13 rebounds against Providence last month, also one short of his career high.
''Looking at my season, I think I'm having a pretty good season,'' Jones said. ''It might not be the season everybody expected of me, or wanted me to have, but as long as my team is being successful, I'm happy.''
Jones said that before back-to-back losses to Villanova and Pitt, a pair of Top-10 teams, so the context has changed a bit but the message hasn't.
No one ever asked, or expected, Jones to get 25 and 15 a night.
And where would the Mountaineers be without him?
''I just think he's doing what's asked of him,'' point guard Joe Mazzulla said. ''Whether they ask him to be a blue-collar guy and get rebounds or knock down a few shots, or they're going to run plays for him whenever it's necessary, so I think he's just doing what's asked of him that's why he's having such a good season.''
Jones, who recently became the school's 47th 1,000-point scorer, knows he could probably bump that scoring average up, but at what cost? He didn't sign on to play for Huggins so it could be about him.
''I guess I would say (I need to be) more aggressive, take care of the ball more,'' he said. ''Trust in my teammates.''
Jones does have a team-best 17 games in which he's scored in double figures this season, along with four games in which he's ripped down double-digit rebounds (also a team-high). For his career he's scored at least 10 55 times and had 10 career double-digit rebounding efforts.
In other words, we're not talking about a bad player, or even a player in a slump.
A team-wide funk, along with defections and injuries, has had ripple down effects and led defenses to really concentrate on the guy who can hurt them the most. On this Mountaineers team, that guy is still Jones.
Even through some difficult times, he remains positive and keeps that bright smile on his face.
''We're just looking forward; we don't want to take any steps backwards,'' Jones said. ''We're going to keep on working hard toward our goal and we definitely want to defend that title - the Big East Championship.''
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com