WVU will pick up pace on court this season
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia men's basketball coach Bob Huggins finds comfort in walking onto the court knowing his team is better than the other team.
With only two returning starters and seven newcomers on the 13-man roster, Huggins is preparing for an uneasy feeling this season. At least early on.
"When you have a young team," he said Wednesday, "there is just bad stuff going on everywhere, and you can't correct it all at one time."
The Mountaineers open practice Saturday for what could be the toughest challenge of Huggins' coaching career. It easily is the toughest challenge since he arrived at West Virginia in 2007. It took time for players to adjust to his system that first year, but they at least had been coached at the college level before.
This team boasts seven freshmen — forward Kevin Noreen, who played in seven games last season, redshirted after having knee surgery. Sophomore guard Juwan Staten transferred from Dayton and must sit out this season.
Not only will the players be mostly different, but the Mountaineers' style also will change a bit. Huggins plans to employ a more up-tempo pace this season.
Senior guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant said the entire team pressed full court during summer pickup games, trying to play as fast as possible. He said he believes that pace will be easier for the freshmen to grasp.
"I think we'll be fine offensively," he said. "It'll be harder on defense."
West Virginia figures to benefit from practicing and playing games during its summer trip to Italy, but the team has a ways to go. Huggins, in his 32nd year of coaching, said he has more patience with this team than he has had with others.
"I had no patience when I first started. I thought everybody should know what I know," he said. "I have since learned that they don't. Really, we have had a lot of patience with them to this point."
The seniors are showing patience, too. Bryant and forward Kevin Jones are in a different type of leadership role, needing to be more vocal than usual.
"It's a tough, thin line, but you have to find a way," said Jones, who was named to the John R. Wooden Award preseason top 50 watch list and could finish in the top 10 in scoring and top 15 in rebounding in school history. "You have to keep stressing to (the newcomers) how important this year is, not only for us (seniors) because it's our last year but for them just to get established."