Absence, Eligibility Early Storylines For WVU Practices
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s basketball team reported for its first official practice Friday with its most ballyhooed new figure, Oscar Tshiebwe, something of a mystery.
The second five-star recruit to be signed by WVU, Tshiebwe missed the trip to Spain due to visa issues, missed the preseason scrimmages and was not at the first interview session with the team.
But rest assured, nothing is wrong and Huggins is certain you will be impressed when he is unleashed on real opponents.
“Oscar hasn’t been around much. He practiced with us before we went to Spain. Since we got back we haven’t done a whole lot,” Huggins said. “He’s talented. You just watch him run up and down the floor and rebound the ball. He’s shooting it pretty good.
“It’s hard when you don’t know what you are doing. There’s so much going through your head. Am I supposed to screen? Am I supposed to cut? Do I flash the post? Then they just freeze.
“He’s a little bit like that, but he doesn’t freeze when he gets on the rim, though.”
And, more than that, he isn’t full of himself as so many superstar young kids are.
“Oscar is as grounded as any kid I’ve had,” he said.
This is Huggins’ 43rd season as head coach and, despite the presence of the Big O to play alongside budding star Derek Culver, he isn’t giddy about it.
“After 43 years coaching and playing before that, it all runs together. Am I going to be all excited and giddy? No. I don’t know I ever was,” he said.
It goes back to things he learned under his father, a Ohio Hall of Fame basketball coach.
“Playing for my father, the thing I remember most is you can’t be up one day, down another. You have to be consistent in your approach to the game. We try to be workman like,” he said.
“I don’t get too high or too low. I get low, but I don’t let them see me do it. That’s when I take the film home and go down in the basement and just throw things around.”
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Huggins hasn’t yet gotten a decision whether Arkansas transfer Gabe Osabuohien will be eligible to play but he has decided that he will be a large addition to his team if cleared.
“He plays really hard. He’s a big who can bounce it, which is a great weapon to have,” Huggins said.
And he was just warming up.
“He can catch it and drive it and draw fouls. He’s strong, he’s aggressive. For an extended period of time he can guard on the perimeter better than any big we have,” Huggins went on. “He has two years SEC experience, and I think that gives him an advantage over the freshmen.”
Huggins sees him not as a wing player but as a forward.
“I don’t think he’s a wing. I think he’s a four who can bounce it and pass it. He rebounds pretty well,” Huggins said.
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Huggins was asked who is second wing right now entering camp.
“Emmitt (Matthews) can’t get tired,” was his answer.
He did admit it’s not quite that bad.
“Actually, we have several people who can play there. Jermaine (Haley) can play there. In fact, that may be Jermaine’s best position. We could play Sean (McNeil) there. We could play Taz (Sherman) there.
“I think, with our two bigs (Culver and Tshiebwe), we could play three guards.” Huggins added.
Haley played guard last year while McNeil and Sherman are junior college transfers who figure highly in Huggins’ plans.
Huggins did a rope-a-dope when asked about the budding scandal at Kansas, the power team in the Big 12, that has led to an investigation by the NCAA.
“I don’t really know enough about it to say anything that’s intelligent. And I pride myself on sounding intelligent, as you know,” he said.
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How hot was it when WVU went on its tour in Spain?
Let Huggins tell you.
“It was so hot. I’m sitting on a chair and I’m soaking wet. Until the last game, I didn’t even bitch at the official, believe it or not,” he said.