If West Virginia is going to once again taste the big-time success Bob Huggins’s basketball teams are so used to enjoying, then guys like Eron Harris
and Terry Henderson
are going to have to step up and play well beyond their years.
Huggins’s H-Gang – Harris and Henderson - were No. 1 and No. 4 in scoring last year for the Mountaineers as freshmen.
Harris almost averaged double digits in becoming the first freshman player since Warren Baker in 1973 to lead the team in scoring (both teams had losing records, by the way). He produced a career-high 25 points in a 65-62 home defeat to Baylor, and also added 23 in a loss to Oklahoma.
And Henderson was not too far behind, averaging eight points per game with 10 double-digit scoring efforts, including three games of scoring 20 or more. He produced a career-high 23 against NCAA runner-up Michigan in New York City last December, contributed a team-high 21 in a home defeat to Oklahoma and scored 20 in a loss to Kansas.
Both guys can shoot it from 3, both have the athletic skills to get it to the rim, and both have the ability to become 15-points-per-game scorers this season. Now, both are also being looked upon to help provide leadership for a rebuilding Mountaineer program that was clearly devoid of leaders last winter.
“They both lead in different ways,” admitted junior point guard Juwan Staten
, another guy expected to lead this season. “Eron is more vocal and Terry is more lead-by-example. I would say Terry is kind of quiet, but he plays hard and he does everything the coaches ask him to do.
“Eron, on the other hand, talks a little bit more and is able to tell (the new players) what to expect in certain drills and things that we need to concentrate on in practice. He’s able to tell them what to expect.”
While Henderson doesn't always say a whole lot, he does plan on letting his game do most of the talking this season. Henderson was the team’s most consistent 3-point shooter last year, knocking down 40 percent of his bombs for the season while shooting 46 percent behind the arc in Big 12 contests, and there were times when it looked like he was about to take over games.
One that clearly comes to mind was Oklahoma here at the Coliseum last January when Henderson went off in the first half before veteran Sooner coach Lon Kruger took away Henderson’s open outside looks. There were other instances when teams were able take Henderson out of his game and that’s something he’s worked hard on this summer to fix.
“I pretty much know all of the sets now so when teams over-play me for the 3 I’m just going to the hole,” Henderson explained. “That’s something I’ve got to engrain in my head and just keep being aggressive. Some games last year I stopped being aggressive when teams adjusted. Me mentally being more aggressive is going to be the key.”
In order to do that, Henderson spent this summer hitting the weight room hard and the gains are clearly noticeable. He’s much bigger and much thicker through his upper body and that will obviously help him when people try and knock him off the ball or when he goes to the basket and draws contact.
“I’ve definitely gotten bigger and stronger,” Henderson noted.
With most of the experience this year coming in the backcourt, there could be times when Henderson and Harris are on the floor at the same time – possibly even with as many as four guards all playing together. Henderson and Harris now have the experience to pull it off if Huggins chooses to do it.
“I’m looking forward to playing with him at the two or three spot, or maybe the one and the two,” said Henderson. “It really doesn’t matter. I’ll play the three or the four. We’ve been together all summer. In open gym we’ve been on the same team sometimes. He’s been handling it and I’ve been handling it, and Huggs knows what he’s doing so if he puts us in together we’re going to be able to do some things.”
If Henderson and Harris are going to play a lot together with Staten or Gary Browne
on the floor, too, then that means Henderson and Harris are going to have to help out on the glass, otherwise, Huggins won’t do it for long. There is nothing worse Huggins can stand than watching the other team playing volleyball on the backboard.
“As we saw in the Big 12 last year there are a couple of teams that are pretty large so everybody is going to have to contribute on the glass from the point guard all the way to the five,” Henderson pointed out. “We’ve been working on that in practice and we’ve been getting better at it.”
The one thing Henderson really likes about this year’s team is its ability to make shots. All five players Huggins puts out on the floor this year should have the ability to shoot the basketball, meaning defenses will have to guard more of the court this season.
“We’ve got a lot of people that can make shots,” Henderson said. “We’re going to have a lot of screen and rolls, screen and pops to be able to put the ball into the hole.”
The team is also much, much closer. The older guys (if you can call them that with no seniors on this year’s squad) have made sure to include the younger guys in everything they do.
“We stay together so we have the younger kids with us – Devin (Williams), Brandon (Watkins) and Nate (Adrian) – we try to get them to hang out with us off the court so we can build that team chemistry,” said Henderson. “Last year, we had more talent, but we had little cliques off the court so we’re trying to get that under control this year.”
Henderson admits last year’s 13-19 record was a miserable experience for everyone involved with the program.
“It was horrible,” he said. “Me coming in as a freshman I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting to go in and continue the legacy of making the tournament and being a great West Virginia team. It was just disappointing.”
“The toughest part was the losing at the end of the year and just seeing Huggs so disappointed,” he admitted. “I was new to things and I didn’t want to disappoint him, and hopefully we can get that under control this year.”
A lot of that could be riding on the shoulders of sophomores Terry Henderson
and Eron Harris
, West Virginia’s H-Gang.