• By John Antonik
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  • July 19, 2011 10:49 PM
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Last January, Kevin Noreen underwent surgery to have a cyst removed from his right knee. Four months later, the Big East Conference approved his hardship waiver request, giving him four seasons of eligibility remaining with the Mountaineers.

The Minneapolis resident considers the seven games he played in 2011 just like a mulligan off the No. 1 tee.

“I was able to play for two months and then I was able to see from the sidelines in practice and learn some more things,” he said before last Sunday’s practice at the Rec Center. “I was able to watch a lot of film and I had the best seat in the house for the games. It was a good time for me to learn.”

Noreen scored a season-high 7 points and added five rebounds in the VMI win, and averaged 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds per game before being sidelined.

Coming out of high school Noreen first opted for Boston College, but when Al Skinner was not retained, he chose to re-open his recruitment and ended up signing with West Virginia.

A former Minnesota Mr. Basketball, Noreen was a prolific high school scorer who averaged 38.6 points per game as a senior and finished his career as the state’s all-time leading scorer with 4,086 points. Aside from his ability to put the ball in the basket, the coaching staff really likes his basketball IQ and his willingness to mix it up inside.

Now totally healed and ready to go, the 6-foot-10-inch Noreen wants to become another inside scoring threat for the Mountaineers alongside senior Kevin Jones and junior Deniz Kilicli.

“I have been doing a lot of spot shooting because I know KJ and the Turk are going to draw a lot of double teams this year, so I need to be there to knock that shot down for them,” Noreen said.

Noreen says this year’s team is completely different than last season’s with a large recruiting class injecting more athleticism on the floor now.

“Coach (Huggins) has already been telling us he’s tired of scoring only 60 points per game. He wants to move it this year. He wants to do some different things to get some more points on the board,” Noreen said. “Even in our first practice we were doing some different things to try and do that.”

Noreen isn’t concerned about the new style of play his year because he believes all styles fit his game.

“I think because of my basketball IQ I can fit into any style,” he said.

It also helps that Noreen is one of just four returning players who knows the West Virginia system. Last year, it was Noreen who was the only one lost at the beginning of practice.

“It was weird at practice (Saturday) because I was one of the four guys here from last year where I was a deer in headlights for the first few months of practice, but I will show them what I know,” he said. “It’s a learning experience, but that’s what these kinds of practices are for.”

Noreen said he will practice without a knee brace this summer and will continue to do so as long as his knee feels good.

“I don’t want the knee brace just because I don’t want to use it as an excuse,” he said. “I don’t think I need it. Maybe if I need it I will use it but for now I feel good.

“It’s kind of like ankle braces, the same type of thing, it’s just a crutch and I don’t want to have that or that burden,” Noreen added. “I’m ready to go; I’m a hundred percent.”