Style adjustment benefits WVU men's basketball team
College Football Videos
Bob Huggins hadn't experienced a losing season in 31 years. When his West Virginia team went 13-19 a season ago, Huggins acted predictably and swiftly.
Officially, Huggins didn't force players to leave, but five members from last season's team requested and received their release to transfer.
In their place, Huggins signed new players. Two of them — freshman forwards Nathan Adrian and Devin Williams — are starters.
Under Huggins, the Mountaineers this year developed a new identity on offense, featuring versatile frontcourt players.
Huggins is satisfied with WVU's 8-5 start.
“We change every year,” Huggins said. “You have to change every year, because you have different personnel every year, you have different personalities every year. We are so much more of a perimeter-oriented team.
“We pretty much played a year ago inside out, where now we don't. We get our touches and get the ball driving to the basket, rather than trying to throw it in there.”
A season ago, Huggins' biggest lament during West Virginia's first season in the Big 12 was having too many frontcourt players with Big East-ready low-post skills, but not enough big men who could dribble and shoot from the perimeter.
By adding perimeter-oriented forwards Remi Dibo and Adrian — who have made the second- and third-most 3-pointers on the team — Huggins addressed those concerns.
The transformation has been startling. The Mountaineers average more than 80 points after averaging 66.1 points in 2012-13. After averaging 5.3 3-pointers a season ago, the Mountaineers average more than eight 3-pointers this season.
“This is a different league,” Huggins said. “It's a different league with different styles. It's more of a perimeter-skill league, where I think the Big East was a big, strong, physical, almost bruising league. We tried to recruit more perimeter scorers. There were a lot of adjustments that we needed to make.”
ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said Huggins' decision to change the roster was perfectly timed.
“I saw them a lot last year. Honestly, they weren't very good,” Fraschilla said. “I don't necessarily agree it was changing conference styles of play. After all those good years, they just got short-handed, talent-wise. I just think his roster didn't have a lot of Big 12 or Big East players.”
Some of those players, including sophomore guard Eron Harris and junior guard Juwan Staten, have stepped up their games. Harris leads the Mountaineers in scoring and 3-pointers; Staten ranks first in assists and steals.
“Coach Huggins is different than any coach I've ever played for,” said Staten, a transfer from Dayton. “It took awhile to understand the things that he wanted from me.”
Huggins' offensive emphasis didn't mean he wanted his players to slack off defensively. Once Staten bought into what Huggins wanted, he became a different player.
“I wanted to pick up my defense and let the offense build off of defense because I know Coach is definitely big on defense,” Staten said.
WVU played a strong nonconference schedule, featuring games against Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Missouri and Gonzaga — all losses. Fraschilla said a better way to evaluate Huggins' personnel changes will occur when the Mountaineers open Big 12 play next month.
“I've only seen them in bits and pieces so far, but it seems like they've improved,” Fraschilla said. “They're playing better, but it's still nonconference. Beating Loyola by 30 points doesn't tell me as much as if they go to Oklahoma or Texas and play really well.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- West Virginia continues WNIT run, advances to semifinals
- West Virginia men’s basketball team hopes best is yet to come
- West Virginia basketball great Hundley dies at 80
- Kentucky labors little in 78-39 rout of West Virginia
- Seniors Browne, Staten help rebuild WVU’s basketball reputation
- WVU, Kentucky will not hesitate to go deep into bench during Sweet 16 matchup
- WVU’s Huggins has seen Calipari’s act before
- West Virginia hopes to top unbeaten Kentucky with conditioning