When Bob Huggins returned to West Virginia University in 2007, he had only one true point guard to work with in Darris Nichols.
Through the years, that really hasn’t changed much with Huggins usually only having one guy on the floor capable of handling the ball at any given time. Last year, he actually had two freshman point guards to use along with senior Truck Bryant, but when you’re dealing with freshmen, well, you’re dealing with freshmen.
This year, those two guys – Jabarie Hinds
and Gary Browne
– are no longer freshmen, and they will team up with talented Dayton transfer Juwan Staten
to give West Virginia possibly its most athletic and explosive backcourt in years.
Having three guys capable of beating people off the dribble and breaking down defenses will make things a lot easier for the Mountaineers on the offensive end of the floor – an area where West Virginia struggled at times last year.
“I can think we can do more things,” said Huggins last week during the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “Certainly we can play faster than we’ve done in the past and we’re looking forward to it.”
In Staten, Huggins is getting another explosive player who can get to the rim, plus, Staten is also a true point guard.
“If you have 190 assists in the A-10, you’re a pretty good point guard,” Huggins said. “I think he’s a pass-first guy and he’s got great explosion and we’re looking forward to him being able to push the tempo a little bit for us.”
Expect Staten, Hinds and Browne to open up the baseline where Huggins is expecting 6-foot-10-inch La Salle transfer Aaric Murray
to make a huge difference. Murray’s length and athleticism should give the Mountaineers a big-time finisher around the glass.
“He’s big and he’s long and he shoots the ball really well, and I think he’s going to be a factor around the rim for us that probably, quite honestly, we haven’t had in awhile - somebody who can block shots and who can rebound the ball,” Huggins said. “He needs to be able to rebound the ball, particularly if (senior) Deniz (Kilicli) doesn’t improve as dramatically in that category as he did from his sophomore year to his junior year.”
According to Huggins, Murray is a completely different player than Kevin Jones, who led the Mountaineers in scoring (19.9 ppg.) and rebounding (10.9 rpg.) last year as a senior. Murray also put up some gaudy numbers as a sophomore at La Salle, averaging 15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in 2010 before opting to transfer to WVU.
“He doesn’t have KJ’s strength. He runs a little bit better than KJ and he jumps a little bit better than KJ, but KJ has great hands; he never dropped a ball - anything in his area he rebounded,” said Huggins of Murray. “Aaric doesn’t have quite as good hands as KJ has, but he’s much longer.”
Not only will Huggins have to adapt to some new players, but his guys will also have to adapt and adjust to a new style of play in the Big 12. However, Huggins has said repeatedly that Big 12 teams will also have to adjust to West Virginia’s playing style as well. The coach can sense the excitement and anticipation building with the move as he travels the state this summer.
“We were in the Big East for 16 years and I think any time there’s something new it’s a little bit refreshing and exciting, and they’re certainly looking forward to the Big 12 teams coming in to Morgantown,” Huggins said.
What is particularly pleasing to Huggins is that playing in a 10-team conference now allows a true league champion to be crowned.
“I think it’s great that we’re going to have a round robin and they’re going to get to see all of the teams,” he noted. “We played at Syracuse four years in a row and Louisville played at our place four years in a row, so you don’t get to see all of the teams. Some of those were home and home games.”
Getting to see Kansas, Texas, Baylor, Kansas State and the rest of the Big 12 each year in your home venue will only help develop rivalries that didn’t previously exist – something that wasn’t necessarily the case in the Big East when certain teams rarely ever came to the Coliseum.
“You just don’t get to see the teams and I don’t think you develop quite the rivalry that you do when you play teams on a home and home basis like we’re going to be able to do,” Huggins said.
- Huggins was asked during last Thursday’s teleconference to give his opinion on the realignment taking place in college sports and the stability West Virginia now enjoys being in the Big 12.
“I think with the climate of what’s going on certainly we (are in a good place),” Huggins said. “It looks like there’s going to be continued movement and it looks like there’s going to be a four-team playoff in college football. Who knows if that will lead to something different in basketball, which could very well be the case, but I think we’re positioned in a great place right now.”
- Huggs was also asked to comment on some of the rule changes taking place this summer, including new legislation that will eliminate some of the restrictions placed on coaches for the text messages they send to recruits.
“I just learned to text last year,” Huggins joked. “I’m kind of an old-fashioned ball coach I guess. I think there’s been a lot of research and a lot of time put into it. Honestly, I think it’s just too hard to keep track of. I think if you can’t legislate or keep track of it, or enforce it, than you ought to just go ahead and make it legal.”
Another change in place is that coaches are now allowed to have more time with their athletes during the summertime. Previously, rules prohibited coaches from having any contact with student-athletes during the summer.
“I’ve had this discussion on many committees and with many NCAA members. We’re supposed to be responsible for them 24 hours a day but we’re not allowed to talk to them or be around them or be involved in their academics to the extent of finding out what’s going on in the classroom,” Huggins said. “I think this is very, very positive.
“We fought long and hard as a (coaching) body for access and I’d like to have a little bit more access than two hours a week, but I think two hours a week is certainly a step in the right direction,” he said. “I don’t think anybody would argue that the more time the players spend with coaches the better off things are going to be.”