By Caleb Wygal
For The Register-Herald
In professional basketball, seeing two former West Virginia Mountaineers playing against each other is a rare occurrence. Saturday afternoon brought together two of the ‘Eers biggest stars in recent years in Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones.
As the NBA enjoys its annual All-Star Break this weekend in New Orleans, its younger sibling, the NBA-Developmental League is taking a break with them. The D-League held its annual All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon, when the Prospects and the Futures squared off. Jones, of the Canton Charge, started for the Prospects team and was matched against Ebanks, who started for the Futures squad representing the Texas Legends.
Ebanks has stood out this season as a member of the Legends — a team for which another former Mountaineer, Joe Alexander, starred a few years ago. Ebanks is among the league leaders in scoring at 24.1 points per game and backs that up by averaging 8.9 rebounds per contest. The defensive intensity he brought to the Lakers during his time there has carried over, but he has expanded his offensive game at the same time.
Jones has been solid in his first full season with the Charge with averages of 15.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He has started every game in which he has played and is shooting 51 percent from the field on his way to leading the Charge defensively as they possess the top scoring defense in the league.
With the eyes and decision makers of the NBA in New Orleans this weekend, the pressure was on to perform well. A good showing here could help one of these players earn an NBA call-up.
Thirty-eight seconds into the game, Ebanks buried a jumper to start the back-and-forth between him and Jones. A few minutes later, Ebanks threw one down. Within seconds, Jones answered at the other end with a layup of his own. For the remainder of the time they were on the court together during first half, the two Mountaineers seemed to be in a competition with each other. At one point, Jones hit a 3-pointer, then Ebanks took the ball coast-to-coast on the ensuing possession for a layup.
At halftime, Jones’ Prospects team led Ebanks and the Futures 72-63. Jones had seven points, while Ebanks led his squad with 12.
Ebanks put his team on his back coming out of the break. He had eight points in the first two minutes on a barrage of jumpers and dunks. He left the game for good midway through the second half, finishing with 27 points on an efficient 13-for-17 from the field. Jones was likewise economical is his time on the floor, going 6-9 for 14 points.
Both teams’ coaches made an effort to give every player equal time on the court, and both Jones and Ebanks played 20 minutes.
On the strength of Ebanks second-half push, the Prospects came from behind to win 145-142. Ebanks was already one of the D-League’s top prospects, and this performance will certainly help his case when NBA teams are deciding who is out there that can help them down the stretch.
Mountaineer fans who were able to watch the game on NBATV or on YouTube received the treat of watching two of their favorite Mountaineers square off in a professional rarity. For Jones and Ebanks, while they enjoyed meeting each other on the court, the honor of playing in a NBDL All-Star Game is a memory that will last for the rest of their lives.
— Follow Caleb on Twitter @WVUPros