MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Only one team will be crowned National Champions, leaving 67 other teams heartbroken.
That was the case on Friday night when Stephen F. Austin routed West Virginia 70-56 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The journey to WVU was different for both young men, but it was a life changing decision that will bond both to the state, the school and their teammates forever.
“It means a lot,” Paige said. “The fans, just being there. I’ve grown a lot since I’ve been there as a player and off the court. I’ve met a lot of good guys. These guys are like brothers to me. I’ll be with the rest of my life. We’ll always have a close relationship and being able to play with Huggs (head coach Bob Huggins) and get a relationship with everybody. It’s just meant a lot. Like I’ve said I’ve grown a lot as a player.”
“I played with a lot of energy,” Holton said. “I rebounded the ball well. I gave great enthusiasm. I tried to be a good person. Coach Huggins taught me a lot. He helped me grow up. I had some ups and downs here, but I outgrew my downs here. If I could sum it up, I had a good career here. I wouldn’t change it for nothing.”
Both Holton and Paige had tremendous careers as Mountaineers.
Paige led WVU in scoring this season. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior guard averaged 13.7 points per game.
Paige became an all-around asset for the Mountaineers. He was both and offensive and defensive threat.
The Jamestown, N.Y. native finished the season with 53 steals, tying him for second on the team with Phillip.
Holton was the face of the press. He brought energy to the court that WVU lacked when he missed four games because of a suspension.
The 6-foot-7, 220-pound senior forward was second on the team in rebounding, averaging 7.6 rebounds per game. He was a force on the offensive glass, grabbing 113 offensive boards. Holton ranked 17th in the nation in offensive rebounding.
Both Paige and Holton were key components to this team’s success.
But the two seniors meant a lot in the locker room to their teammates, who were grateful to play alongside the two talented athletes.
“It’s a blessing actually,” junior guard Tarik Phillip said. “Jon brings a different game, different style of play to the game that we do. He’s the head of the press. Jaysean, I’ve learned a lot from him as well. Just his offensive ability. He can really score the ball. That’s what people don’t really understand for his height, for his size, he can really score the ball. They both had a heck of a season. I am sorry that it had to go out that way.”
The bond goes deeper than what the fans saw on the court. The Mountaineers were a family and Holton
and Paige were the big brothers of the group.
“I think we made each other better,” junior forward Devin Williams said. “Because I feel like I got two brothers forever. Somebody that I can just call and talk to. Somebody that I am willing to take a travel to go see. I love them. They’re family and I think they feel the same about me.”
“I redshirted with Jon my freshman year so I call him my brother,” sophomore forward Elijah Macon said. “We spent a lot of time together the first year I was here. Jaysean, him as well. He was a new guy. I brought him as well, just showed him around and how to play here. Just playing with those guys this year was really fun.”
Holton and Paige’s time in Morgantown was limited but they will have a home at WVU and with their teammates.