By John Antonik for WVUsports.com
November 01, 2011 09:49 AM
|Freshman Jabarie Hinds was the named New York's Mr. Basketball in 2011.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks
This Friday night Mountaineer basketball fans will get their first opportunity to see guard Jabarie Hinds in true game conditions against Northern Kentucky.
West Virginia’s only exhibition game of the year will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be streamed live on MSNsportsNET.com. Tickets can be purchased in advanced by calling the Mountaineer Ticket Office toll-free at 1-800-WVU GAME or by logging on to WVUGAME.com.
Hinds was one of the coach Bob Huggins’ centerpiece recruits in 2011, the point guard last spring sharing New York’s Mr. Basketball Award with Villanova signee Archaf Yacoubou. Hinds scored 31 points in the state championship game to lead Mount Vernon to another state title while averaging nearly 18 points per game as a senior.
Mountaineer fans were hoping Hinds could put those stellar credentials to immediate use, but his arrival to Morgantown was delayed because of problems with his high school transcript and he and was not able to travel with the team during its two-week tour of Europe last summer. Not only did Hinds miss out on a great cultural experience, but he also missed the opportunity to play and practice with his new teammates.
“Stuff happens and I couldn’t really do anything about it,” Hinds said before practice last week. “I was just at home working out waiting to get down here.”
Hinds is expected to compete with fellow freshman Gary Browne for the starting point guard job this year. Interestingly enough, Hinds says he only played point guard one year at Mount Vernon – his sophomore season; the rest of his time was spent playing the two-guard position. Browne, meanwhile, has always been a point guard.
“We had another point guard in high school who wasn’t as tall as me but he was faster so I’m just trying to translate my game over to the one,” Hinds said. “I’m fully a one. Gary has been a one since high school, so I’m thinking he knows the one better than me. I’m working on things and just trying to get used to it.”
Huggins says he has been impressed with Hinds’ aptitude to learn so far.
“It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t with us this summer or he may be like a veteran now,” Huggins said. “He picks things up pretty quickly, which is great because we need that. And Gary picks things up, but there are so many different situations and scenarios that hit them that they haven’t seen before so obviously you have to coach them through all those things.”
Huggins recalled the struggles Joe Mazzulla had early in his career when he first took over the primary ball handling duties.
“I remember Mazzulla playing about seven or eight minutes in a scrimmage against Virginia and turning the ball over about eight times to the point where he came over and said take me out. I said, ‘Nah, I want you to get them all out of your system,’” Huggins said. “We’re going to have some situations that they haven’t seen and the hard thing is you want to do the fundamentals. You have to be fundamentally sound, but at the same time you can’t just do fundamentals when you have such a short period of time to get guys ready.”
Hinds admits he’s been playing catch up since he arrived on campus during the first week of the fall semester in August.
“Now I know everything,” he said. “I know all of the plays, all of the defensive plays, and I’m in the mix now.”
Knowing things and knowing things the way the coaches want the players to know them are sometimes two entirely different things, however.
“I’ve said a thousand times, we do one simple thing to the next to the next to the next in a very rapid succession, which makes it complex,” Huggins pointed out. “That’s what complex things are, a bunch of little things thrown together. Our transfer from one thing to the next is not near as good as it needs to be right now.”
On purely an athletic level, Hinds gives the Mountaineers some much needed backcourt quickness and an ability to break down defenses and get to the rim. He can also knock down open shots, which should help West Virginia in half-court sets this year.
“Whenever it’s open basically just attack; they want us to attack, keep the ball and protect it but attack whenever you can,” Hinds explained.
As is the case with nearly all incoming freshmen, Hinds was the best player on his high school team and admits there were times when he could take plays off on the defensive end of the floor because he was so much better than a lot of the guys he was guarding. That certainly won’t be the case this year playing in the Big East.
“You can’t take plays off here,” he said. “If you take a play off you’re coming out of the game. On defense you’re head has to be on a swivel, you never know. Your teammate might get beat and you’ve got to be there for help. If you’re not ready then you might get taken out of the game also.”
Playing against some of the great backcourts the Big East has to offer will be a big challenge to Hinds – one he is anxious to meet.
“There is pressure but we’ve just got to play through it and keep getting better,” he said.
Hinds is also excited to be reunited with Mount Vernon teammate Kevin Jones. The two last played together when Hinds was a freshman in high school.
“Now in college I’m playing with him for one year so I’m just trying to make the best of it and have fun for his senior year,” said Hinds, adding that he is surprised with how big KJ has become in the Mountaineer program. “He is real huge. The first time he came back to Mount Vernon from college, everybody in the gym couldn’t believe that was him.”
Hinds is also cool with senior and fellow New Yorker Truck Bryant, who has been helping him get used to Morgantown and West Virginia basketball.
“I didn’t really know him as much in high school but I hang out a lot with him,” he said. “He always talks to me and tells me stuff.”
Perhaps all three New Yorkers – Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and freshman Jabarie Hinds - can give Mountaineer basketball fans one more unforgettable moment in the Big Apple next March in the Big East tournament.
Time will tell.
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