October 2, 2014

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Former West Virginia star likes Cavs, hopes to stick

INDEPENDENCE — For Kevin Jones, the worst of times could turn out to be the best of times.

Kevin Jones is happy for chance to play for Cavs. (AP photo.)

Kevin Jones is happy for chance to play for Cavs. (AP photo.)

After 60 players were taken in the two rounds of the 2012 NBA Draft, the 6-foot-8, 250-pound power forward from West Virginia still found himself without a team.

Once Jones recovered from the blow to his ego, however, he realized it was better not to be drafted late in the second round by a team that really didn’t have him in its plans, because being a free agent allowed him to search for the best place for him.

That turned out to be Cleveland, which gave him a three-year contract. Only $50,000 of that is guaranteed, but at least Jones knows the Cavaliers wanted him as he takes part in his first NBA training camp.

“There was a bond growing between me and the Cavs,” the personable 23-year-old said.

“They were the first team to contact me after the draft. It was a good match.”

Jones isn’t a lock to stick with the Cavs, but the four-year college player has a decent chance after last season becoming just the third player to lead the Big East in scoring (19.9) and rebounding (10.9). The other two were Notre Dame’s Troy Murphy and current Cavs forward Luke Harangody.

“This was the team that was always around throughout my whole draft process,” said Jones, whose ability to work out in the early portions of the summer was hampered by a sore left heel. “I think I have a real good chance of being on the team.”

Jones doesn’t appear to be as tall or as heavy as he’s listed — and would be a bit undersized for an NBA power forward even if he is — but he’s a workhorse on the court.

Though not a particularly gifted shooter or ballhandler, he willed his way inside and often dominated college opponents.

There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to do that at the NBA level, but he’ll at least get a chance with the rebuilding Cavs, who have a lengthy history of keeping undrafted players and second-round picks.

Big man Samardo Samuels has made decent contributions to the team after going undrafted out of Louisville in 2010, while Alonzo Gee ended up being the Cavs’ starting small forward last season after not being drafted out of Alabama in 2009.

Center Micheal Eric and guards Kelenna Azubuike, Jeremy Pargo and Donald Sloan are also battling for roster sports after going undrafted, while Harangody, Daniel Gibson, Luke Walton, Jon Leuer, C.J. Miles and Anderson Varejao were second-round choices.

“I looked at the roster and what the needs of the team were and how I fit in,” Jones said of landing in Cleveland. “It just all seemed to come together.

“(A three-year contract) gives you a little more security. It gives you time to calm down and see where you fit in.”

The one thing Jones vows not to do is become complacent.

“I’m going to play as hungry as ever,” he said. “I have to earn everything I get for the next three years. I’m willing to do that.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.