On Saturday evening, the annual Orange vs. White scrimmage showcasing the UTEP men’s basketball team was held at the Don Haskins Center. Although the Orange team narrowly edged the White 85-84, the big story had nothing to do with the play on the court. Instead, head coach Tim Floyd announced after the game that sophomore center Kelvin Jones had suddenly left the men’s basketball program.
“I think his teammates are devastated,” Floyd said after the game. “They’re really upset, really bothered. This happened a week before the season, with no indication or any discomfort in any way. But it’s going to mean more minutes for Tirus Smith, it’s going to mean more minutes for Trey Wade, it’s going to mean more minutes for Paul Thomas and a healthy Matt Willms. So we’ll just move on.”
Jones is the first UTEP player featured on their season ticket video, dunking a basketball. Floyd told the media Saturday night that Jones chose to honor the request of his father, who wanted him to go to another school where he could get more playing time.
Jones’ decision is a baffling one, when you realize that he would play alongside senior Matt Willms this season, and then he would have the starting center job to himself as a junior in 2018. Willms has been injury prone throughout his UTEP career, so Jones was in line to receive big minutes in the low post. He is also developing his game at the college level, and he had shown signs of improvement playing in Costa Rica.
In the last two seasons, the Miners have lost three players off of their roster for the most baffling reasons:
Josh McSwiggan: missed his girlfriend and wanted to be closer to her in Wyoming.
Roderick Williams: God spoke to him in his prayers and told him to go back to Southern California.
Kelvin Jones: honoring his dad’s wishes, who wanted him to leave UTEP for more playing time.
Despite UTEP’s sudden lack of depth in the low post, the Miners are loaded with guards who can score. As long as everyone stays healthy (and do not leave the program for some asinine reason), the 2017-18 Miners can still be one of the best teams Floyd has had since 2011 when they were minutes away from returning to the NCAA Tournament.
For years, fans have been wondering if UTEP would ever entice them with a bobblehead giveaway. After all, it was the El Paso Chihuahuas who gave away the bobblehead of Miner coaching legend Don Haskins. The wait is over. On Saturday, random fans through the gates at the Sun Bowl will receive an Aaron Jones bobblehead courtesy of GECU.
Here are the details for the promotion, per UTEP athletics. Fans can pick up their complimentary game program as they enter the stadium and look for the Aaron Jones sticker on page 29. Fans with the sticker can present their program at the bobblehead pickup, located on the North side of the Sun Bowl by the Larry K. Durham Center, to receive their free item. There will be a limit of one program per fan that enters the stadium, with no exchanges. 1,000 Jones bobbleheads will be available for pickup at the football game only.
Good for UTEP athletics, IMG College, GECU and whoever else is responsible for coming up with this promotion. Jones is enjoying a great start to his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers and this is a great incentive for fans to get to the Sun Bowl. I hope that UTEP continues to grow this idea with other bobblehead giveaways featuring many of their legendary sports stars.
Steve Kaplowitz hosts “Sportstalk” weekday afternoons 4-7 p.m. on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can contact Steve by emailing him at email@example.com.