Eron Harris Interviews Fran Fraschilla

  • By Sean Merinar
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  • October 22, 2013 07:30 PM
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Our Big 12 men's basketball media day correspondent Eron Harris catches up with ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla for a quick one-on-one interview earlier today.

Produced by Sean Merinar

WVU to Rely on Youth This Season

  • By John Antonik
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  • October 22, 2013 11:53 AM
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KANSAS CITY - West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, sporting a collegiate look in his navy blue West Virginia University letterman’s sweater, was asked during Tuesday’s Big 12 media day session about his latest fashion statement.

“Really good looking, isn’t it?” Huggins joked. “I’d figure I’d be the (former Eastern Kentucky coach) Max Good of the Big 12. I was in OVC with Max and every year he’d come in with an entirely different look, so I just figured I’d do it.”

Joking aside, Huggins soon got down to the matter at hand, which was to talk about this year’s remodeled basketball team that features most of its experienced players in the backcourt.

Based on the players Huggins chose to bring with him out here to Kansas City –guards Terry Henderson, Eron Harris and Juwan Staten – West Virginia figures to rely heavily on perimeter play this year.

“Well, we’ve gone from, I think, trying to ineffectively throw it inside to we’re going to be more of a perimeter team,” Huggins said. “There are a few fun things left in this business, and I think one of them is to watch people mature.”

Of course he’s talking about the development of Harris and Henderson – two sophomores with potentially big-time scoring capabilities for WVU this season. Harris became the first freshman since 1973 to lead the Mountaineers in scoring last year with a 9.8 points-per-game average, while Henderson averaged 8 points per contest and was second in the Big 12 in 3-point shooting at 46 percent.

Harris went for a season-high 25 in a home loss to Baylor and also had 23 coming down the stretch against Oklahoma while Henderson topped the 20-point mark three times, including a team-high 23 in a road loss to eventual NCAA runner-up Michigan in New York City.

“Those guys went from being very shy, skinny little guys to know knowing what to do and kind of being not very assertive to taking a leadership role,” said Huggins. “We don’t have any seniors, and we only have five returning guys, so those five guys kind of have to assume a leadership role for us.”

Watching two young players blossom right in front of your eyes can make any old ball coach feel a little bit younger, says Huggins.

“It’s kind of fun watching those two young guys grow into that role of helping the younger guys with the things that I think they struggled with maybe initially a year ago,” said Huggins. “But they’re both talented guys and they’re both really good guys so we look for them to have big years for us.”

Last year was certainly not a big year for West Virginia basketball in its inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference, the Mountaineers dipping below .500 for the first time since 2003 when John Beilein was in his first year rebuilding the program. Huggins said there were certainly lessons learned in 2012.

“I think people assumed since I’ve been in the league for a year that I kind of knew what was going on,” he said. “I was kind of hoping that I did. But it was an entirely different league when I was there (at Kansas State). We had a north division and a south division and you played everybody in the north twice and played the south once.

“The travel was harder than what we thought it was going to be,” he continued. “I think the commissioner (Bob Bowlsby) and everybody in the league have done a great job of trying to make it as painless as you can possibly make flying four hours painless. But the whole league is different.”

Huggins pointed out some clear differences between the Big 12 and the Big East - the conference West Virginia was formerly a member of.

“Let’s be honest, officiating in this league compared to the officiating in the Big East was night and day,” he said. “The atmospheres were night and day. You go from a league where you play maybe half of your games in NBA arenas that are downtown, away from campus, and you don’t have the student involvement that you have in the Big 12. I think the atmospheres in the Big 12 are far tougher to play in than they are in the leagues where you don’t have to play on campus.

“So there was, I think, a great deal of adjustment for not just the coaches, but I think the players as well.”

Mountaineer teams in the past typically had great fan support whenever they went on the road to play in the Big East. Because of the great distances the team is traveling in the Big 12 now, that has clearly changed a little bit.

“Before in the Big East, because we were an hour flight away, and four- or five-hour drive and because we had so many alumni up and down the East Coast everywhere we went, we had a tremendous following,” Huggins explained. “In this league, it’s really hard and we don’t have the alumni base that we have in the East.”

West Virginia has two more weeks of preseason prep work before facing Fairmont State in its only preseason game on Nov. 4 at the Coliseum.

The Mountaineers open the regular season four days later against Mount St. Mary’s at the Coliseum on Nov. 8.

The early part of the season will also feature games against Duquesne, Virginia Tech, Georgia Southern and Presbyterian before the Mountaineers travel to Cancun, Mexico to play two games there in the Cancun Challenge.

West Virginia opens Big 12 play on the road at TCU and Texas Tech on Jan. 4-6.


Big 12 Conference men's basketball media day, West Virginia University Mountaineers, Bob Huggins

Big 12 Media Day Updates

  • By John Antonik
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  • October 22, 2013 09:26 AM
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KANSAS CITY - Big 12 media day is underway at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger tipped things off at 8 a.m. local time with his question and answer session on the arena floor.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins is scheduled to go at 9 a.m.

Players and coaches will have individual interview sessions with the Longhorn Network, Big 12 Digital Network, Big 12 This Week, Sirius/XM Radio and Fox Sports 1.

West Virginia’s interview with Sirius/XM Radio is scheduled for 10 am local time.

An ESPN crew, including Big 12 analyst Fran Fraschilla, is also here.

Team participants this year include:

Baylor: Isaiah Austin, Gary Franklin, Brady Heslip and Cory Jefferson
Iowa State: Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang
Kansas: Tarik Black, Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe and Andrew Wiggins
Kansas State: Thomas Gipson, Will Spradling and Shane Southwell
Oklahoma: Cameron Clark and Buddy Hield
Oklahoma State: Markel Brown, Michael Cobbins, Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart
TCU: Kyan Anderson and Karviar Shepherd
Texas: Javan Felix and Connor Lammert
Texas Tech: Jaye Crockett and Jordan Tolbert
West Virginia: Eron Harris, Terry Henderson and Juwan Staten

Kansas and Oklahoma State were predicted to finish first in the Big 12 preseason media poll announced earlier this month.

Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma round out the top six, with West Virginia, Texas, Texas Tech and TCU completing the poll.

Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart was tabbed preseason player of the year while the Kansas duo of Tarik Black, a Memphis transfer, and Andrew Wiggins were named preseason newcomer and freshman of the year respectively.

Wiggins and Smart were named to the preseason all-Big 12 team. Joining them were Baylor’s Austin and Jefferson, Iowa State’s Ejim and Oklahoma State’s Brown.

8:45 AM Update

- Three major points of emphasis this year from the NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee:

Handchecking: The rules committee is concerned that various types of handchecking on a player with the ball drastically reduces the dribbler's ability to beat his man to create scoring opportunities.

Freedom of Movement: The rules committee continues to express concern that the rules relating to a player's ability to move with or without the ball are being neglected by officials, resulting in more physical play and less opportunity for scoring.

Block/Charge Plays: After reviewing tape of numerous block/charge plays, the committee is concerned about the number of incorrect calls made. The committee has asked that an educational process be undertaken to improve the officiating calls on block/charge plays.

8:55 AM Update

- Something you just don't see every day: Huggs posing for a picture with Big 12 coordinator of officials Curtis Shaw prior to the coach taking the stage for his media session at the Sprint Center.

Shaw took the stage immediately following Huggins to address some of the new rules being adopted this year.

- Huggs on the transition to a new league last season … “I think people assumed since I’ve been in the league for a year that I kind of knew what was going on. I was kind of hoping that I did. But it was an entirely different league when I was there.

“We had a north division and a south division, and you played everybody in the north twice and played the south once.

“The travel was harder than what we thought it was going to be. I think the commissioner and everybody in the league have done a great job of trying to make it as painless as you can possibly make flying four hours painless. The whole league is different.”

9:45 AM Update

- A popular topic of discussion here today has been the reported five-game suspension handed down by the NCAA to Missouri coach Frank Haith for what happened when he was coaching at Miami.

Baylor’s Scott Drew was asked if he thought what happened to Haith will make coaches more cautious about who they allow around their programs … “I think every college coach tries to do as good a job as they can in trying to protect the program and making sure that we’re not putting our players in harms way," he said.

“Unfortunately we can’t be with everybody 24/7, and there has to be some trust. That’s why it’s great the more the rules are explained, compliance offices are able to let the incoming recruits know that stuff just so you don’t jeopardize someone’s eligibility.”

Bob Huggins was also asked about the Haith situation … “It’s really a double-edged sword because you want your guys to meet some people that are going to be beneficial to them down the road – potential employers, people who have contacts, people who can make calls and people who are going to be references. At the same time, you’re supposed to stay away from those very people," said Huggins.

“It’s a fine line I think we all walk to try to do the right things by the kids, because the right thing really is for those kids to get to know people that are going to help them down the road and in the future. But at the same time, don’t get too involved because then you cross over that line.”

9:50 AM Update

- Kansas true freshman Andrew Wiggins is clearly a popular interview subject at this year's media day. The fact that Kansas brought the nation's No. 1 recruit to Kansas City today could mean that he is likely going to be a one-and-done player.

One other quick observation about some of the players here today ... The last two years I've been to Kansas City Baylor clearly has the biggest players. Isaiah Austin looks every bit his 7-foot-1 listing and Cory Jefferson is easily 6-foot-9. Kansas' Tarik Black, TCU's Karviar Shepherd and Texas' Connor Lammert are the only other bigs at this year's media day.

10:20 AM Update

-Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger’s thoughts on the Big 12 this year … “Everyone thinks their league is great and ours is no different,” he said. “Obviously a lot of new players and that’s exciting. There will be some turnover in terms of rosters in some cases, in other cases a pretty good chunk of minutes returning.

“But when you look at the roster with Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and all the returning people, I think they understandably are thought to be at the top of the league in the preseason expectations. But then, I think we have great balance after that.

“It will be an interesting race as all of the conferences are. Everyone has their expectations and predictions early. To see how those either become a reality or not is exciting to watch that.”

11:10 AM Update

- TCU coach Trent Johnson is encouraged with the group of newcomers he brought in this year, including touted 6-foot-10-inch freshman center Karviar Shepherd of Dallas … ”We’re much improved from a skill-level standpoint,” said Johnson. “We’re much improved from size and strength. Last year we had too many coaches on the floor to try and compete and play to just basically get through the year and through the season.

“My optimism is based off of the facts, and the facts are you should shoot the ball better and play at a faster tempo. I understand our scrimmage last year at this time – scoreless with six minutes to go – this year it was 65-59, so I shut it down with about seven minutes (remaining).”

11:47 AM Update

- Oklahoma State joins Kansas as one of the preseason favorites to win the Big 12. The Cowboys split first place votes this year with the Jayhawks, based primarily on the return of sophomore guard Marcus Smart – considered one of the nation’s top returning players.

“We understand the expectations of this team,” said Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford. “Our guys hear it every day from the fans and the media and the positive things that are said, and we’ve embraced it in the fact that, yes, we thing we have a pretty decent team. But we have to be humble enough to handle it and hungry enough to get a little bit better each day.”

In order to reach their lofty goals this season, Ford concedes that his team is going to have to shoot the ball better from the perimeter.

“At this point in time, practice has been one of our strengths, shooting the basketball,” said Ford. “Marcus is shooting the ball really well. Markel Brown is shooting the ball really well, Brian Williams. We have some freshmen that have come in and their strengths are shooting the ball, between Stevie Clark and Jeffrey Carroll, these are some really knock-down shooters on our basketball team. And Phil Forte is probably one of the best shooters in America.”

12:19 PM Update

- Tubby Smith on why he chose to coach at Texas Tech so soon after getting let go at Minnesota … “Well, first, when you’re fired from a job you never expect that. I’ve been in the business for 39 years, and you provide a service for programs and communities and universities, so we did the best that we could.

“Now, I think we’ve done it the right way over the years so I wanted to take some time. But sometimes it doesn’t go that way,” he said. “What happened was I get a call maybe the next day or two days after I was let go in Minnesota by the folks at Texas Tech, and it’s good to be wanted. Certainly, I feel like it’s an opportunity. They have a need there, and they wanted some stability and some continuity. Certainly the commitment is there by the administration at Texas Tech, so that’s sort of how it happened.”


Big 12 Media Day, West Virginia University, Sprint Center

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