Evolving Picture In The Post For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The words, as most of them were on Bob Huggins’ post-game radio interview out of Austin, Texas, late Saturday were spoken in hushed tones, not a mumble but not exactly carrying much emphasis.
Huggins was talking about his team’s struggles that had grown even deeper with a 61-54 loss in a game it could have won but again didn’t, falling to 8-6 on the season and 0-2 in the Big 12 for the first time since joining the conference.
It was almost as much as he tried to sneak the comment by, or that it slipped accidentally from his lips, sort of like a kid that was holding something back that knew he shouldn’t.
In the midst of that the words came forth:
“Nobody thought you’d lose Sags for the year.”
For the year? There had been no such previous announcement. Yes, it seemed that each time he was seen over the last few weeks he was on crutches that seemed to be getting bigger and bigger.
And, no, the Big 12s best shot-blocker and the one man that could make a difference for WVU wasn’t playing and no one knew when he would, but there had been no indication that the complications from off-season surgery were that extensive.
Minutes later, after the radio interview with Tony Caridi, who did not offer a follow-up question, Huggins was in his post-game media press conference and talking about how Texas had attacked WVU in the game.
“They did a good job spreading ya out. That’s what they’re trying to do is get straight-line drives to the basket. They got too many on us,” he said. “When Sags is back there, it’s not going to matter. But he’s not back there and he’s not going to be back there, so we got to figure something else out.”
” … he’s not going to be back there.”
Is that another non-announcement announcement?
Here’s the way Huggins explained how the situation is playing out with this valuable property that has such a high NBA potential.
“It ends up being a family situation. It’s not my decision. It’s he and his family, and he’s 21 years old, so he should be capable of making those kinds of decisions for himself,” Huggins said. “But it’s a family situation and they got to do what they think is right.”
Are they being overly cautious? Can you be overly cautious?
Certainly, it is something that has affected the whole team. Huggins has been breaking in young guards and its been a slower process than he would have hoped and, in truth, he hasn’t gotten out of his veteran players — Lamont West, Esa Ahmad, Chase Harler, Logan Routt and Beetle Bolden — what he had expected.
Part of it is injury-related, part well may be related to a team floundering without its cornerstone player.
The one major positive through it all has been the rapid development of Derek Culver, a physical freak of an athlete who may be the fastest and strongest player on the team. A freshman with untapped potential, he needed an attitude adjustment and sat out the first semester on suspension but has shown himself to be potentially a star player in the near future since coming back.
That’s important, because as Huggins said about going forward without Konate, “We can’t sit here wishing him back. We can’t sit here and cry ‘oh woe is me’ because he isn’t here. We got to find a way to win.”
And that way seems to go through Culver.
“With each passing game, Derek replaces (Konate’s) offense. We obviously can’t replace his shot-blocking, but I think, very soon, Derek would be as good offensively for us. Derek’s always had potential. Derek’s attitude, Derek’s resolve is so much better.”
The players seem to understand the situation and what Culver is coming to mean to the team.
“He’s a force,” fellow freshman Jordan McCabe said after having his best game of the season against Texas. “I’ve been saying that since he got back in the lineup. His ceiling is non-existent. He’s incredible. He’s an unbelievable athlete. As he gets more and more reps, and it’s that way with all us young guys, each rep we’re getting better.
“Unfortunately we’re at a point in the season where we have to pick things up.”