MORGANTOWN - Coaches often tend toward hyperbole when discussing players they are about to face or have just encountered. It's just the nature of the beast.
Think of it as the antithesis of bulletin board material.
In this day and age of instant communication, most coaches are way too smart to provide incentive to opponents. But make an opposing player seem like a cross between the talent of Michael Jordan and work ethic of Da'Sean Butler (with a little Mother Teresa thrown in for good measure), hey, who does that hurt? If anything it might get a guy or a team feeling a little too good about themselves.
Did you see what they said about me, that I'm the best free-throw shooter since Calvin Murphy? Argggghhh! Let's kill those guys!
No, it just doesn't have the same motivational appeal, does it?
(Just as an aside, as long as I'm peripherally touching on bulletin board material, I have to recount what remains the best - or worst - bulletin board comment I've ever conveyed in print: Jarret Kearse, then a freshman WVU guard in 1997-98, said he'd played summer ball with Connecticut's Khalid El-Amin. "He's a little chubby kid. ... We played head up and I had about 45 points.'' Next day's result: UConn 88, WVU 75. Kearse, 1 point. El-Amin, 12-of-18, 29 points, four assists.)
Anyway, back to the point, which is coaches playing up opponents, not knocking them down. It happens all the time, of course, but rarely do I recall it happening to a West Virginia player with the kind of regularity with which praise is being heaped upon Kevin Jones these days.
It's been more than a week now since the Mountaineers played a team whose coach didn't pump Jones not only for Big East player of the year, but national player of the year.
Marshall's Tom Herrion before Jones went for 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists: "You lead that conference in scoring and rebounding; I mean, I've been in that league twice and that says enough. You do that in that league and that means you're in talks for player of the year on the national level.''
And Cincinnati's Mick Cronin after Jones' 26-point, 13-rebound afternoon in the Mountaineers' overtime win over the Bearcats Saturday: "That's why he's the player of the year in the Big East. When a guy is a great player you have to give him credit.''
No West Virginia player, of course, has ever so much as sniffed the big round basketball awarded to the Big East player of the year. Shoot, it's rare that a Mountaineer even makes the All-Big East first team. Damian Owens (1998) and Calvin Bowman (2001) did it when it was a five-man team; Mike Gansey (2006), Kevin Pittsnogle (2006) and Frank Young (2007) made unwieldy 11-man first teams, and Butler (2010) was on the first unit after it was mercifully reduced to a manageable six players.
That's six first-team All-Big East players in 16 years of league play.