Mountaineer fans got a brief glimpse of what Ukrainian freshman forward Volodymyr Gerun
could do on the basketball court when West Virginia defeated Glenville State in an exhibition game last month. Now Gerun finally gets his chance to perform when it counts when West Virginia faces Virginia Tech on Saturday at the WVU Coliseum.
Gerun was required to sit out the first six games of the regular season because the NCAA determined that he played three games on a professional team in the Ukraine during the 2011 season.
During the time he had to sit out, Gerun was allowed to practice with the team but was unable to travel.
In the exhibition game, Gerun showed that he was capable of scoring around the basket and also possessed the ability to step out and shoot the ball, finishing the game with 12 points in just 12 minutes of action.
Last year, the 6-foot-10, 240-pounder led his team in scoring (18.2 ppg.), rebounding (11.1 rpg.) and blocks (2.1 bpg.) at the under-18 European Championships, including a 29-point, 14-rebound performance against the Italian National Team. He also had 23 points and 14 rebounds against Finland and 25 points and 10 rebounds against the Czech Republic.
Prior to that, he was named MVP of the Under-16 European Championships after averaging 17.3 points per game during the tournament.
“He can make shots and he’s not afraid to take them,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “He gives us a ‘stretch-four’, meaning he can stretch the defense. He’s more in that regard like K.J. (Kevin Jones) than what our other guys are.
“K.J. was a terrific rebounder and a much, much better defender than anybody gave him credit for, but really he stretched people. You had to guard him," Huggins said. "In the (Marshall) game last year he hit two huge 3s that kind of opened the game up for us, which is what we hope Voldy will be able to do for us.”
Just how much Gerun will be able to contribute right away remains to be seen. Because he hasn’t been involved in game planning and wasn’t here last year, he is currently way behind West Virginia’s other bigs.
“It’s hard situation to have to put a kid through because you can’t possibly pay as much attention to him,” Huggins explained. “We’ve played one home game and he’s not allowed to travel so he hasn’t been around the team. He hasn’t been able to see all of the film and see all of the scouting reports and to do all those things.”
What makes it especially difficult is the language barrier that Gerun has to overcome right now. Huggins admits he’s not entire sure what the freshman is digesting right now.
“There is a language barrier. Deniz (Kilicli) was here for a year so Deniz obviously understood English a whole lot better than what Voldy does,” Huggins said. “Honestly, our guys have been great. They try to help him, then you try and get some things done and you talk a little faster and I don’t know how much he comprehends sometimes.”
Huggins said he was dealing with a similar situation with Aaric Murray
earlier this year, although obviously without the language barrier. Murray didn’t have an opportunity to work much with the team last year because of a broken hand and that inactivity slowed his progress at the season’s outset. Now, according to Huggins, Murray is just beginning to understand what is expected of him and where he fits on this year’s team. That process is just starting with Gerun.
“It’s maybe one thing if you played for a year and you miss six games. Until lately we’ve had five bigs for practice and obviously you are getting the three that played the first three games ready and then you try and get Dom (Rutledge) ready,” said Huggins. “(Gerun) doesn’t know what those other guys know and Aaric didn’t practice much (last year), but those other three guys have been around.
“Just from a knowledge standpoint it’s hard,” Huggins added. “He’s certainly the best shooter of the five and he’s the biggest. He’s a great kid and he’s going to be a really good player, I think, I just don’t know when.”