Florida, Garden To Provide Measuring Stick For WVU

Florida, Garden To Provide Measuring Stick For WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va — It’s New York, it’s national TV, it’s the Jimmy V Classic, it’s Madison Square Garden.

That’s a lot for West Virginia’s basketball team to take in at 9;00 p.m. today when it meets Florida, and Bob Huggins wants his young players and many of his older ones to grasp it all in, but he does not believe the aura of it all once the game begins.

“I don’t think once you throw the ball up it matters,” Huggins said.

That’s when you go back to playing on that driveway basketball court with the rim up above the garage. That’s when you are back in Morgantown in the gym going through the drills aimed at getting you to the point that you can play the game anywhere.

Huggins believes it’s the same for Florida, too.

“They are a little like us,” he said. “Young, play a lot of guards.”

WVU’s play seems to be growing with each game, although sometimes you wonder when Huggins dissects it later.

Take the easy victory over Youngstown State the last time out, WVU’s fourth straight win.

Huggins has been struggling by trying to find a defense that fits his team. “Press Virginia” currently isn’t it, his team lacking the foot speed and athleticism it had in the past.

West Virginia forward Sagaba Konate (50) blocks the shot attempt of Buffalo’s Nick Perkins

They had played some 1-3-1 earlier and, against Youngstown, they tried some 2-3 zone.

“I’ve tried everything,” Huggins said. We tried 2-3 earlier in the year, which used to be pretty good for us. We were going to play 1-1-3, but 1-1-3 is a little harder. You’ve got to teach a whole lot more.

“I thought we’d just go in with the church league 2-3 and make them shoot it over us and they shot layups. The search is ongoing.”

It’s a process and he doesn’t have the advantage of having Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles around to be teachers on the floor. Beetle Bolden could serve that but, as Huggins notes, injuries have limited his practice time and isn’t out there enough to give them the examples they need.

“You learn by doing. You can watch film and it helps. It helps more watching what you are doing than by watching someone else do it,” Huggins said. “You can’t say you have to be like John Stockton. You’re not John Stockton. You’re Jordan McCabe or Brandon Knapper. You’ve got to play to your strengths. You can’t be something you’re not.”

The problem is players at that stage don’t yet know what they can or cannot do. They haven’t crafted themselves into the player they will be yet. You have seen it with Sagaba Konate and the way his grown and the same with Esa Ahmad.

“It’s hard to convince guys they are capable of something they don’t think they can do,” Huggins said. “But the thing is, you have to do what you are good at. On one hand you want them to expand their game but you do not want them to try to do things they are not equipped to do.”

So you have McCabe and Knapper and Andrew Gordon and Emmitt Matthews Jr. all trying to discover themselves, sort of on the job training and doing it against a Florida team now that stands at 4-3, but that a year ago went to the Elite Eight before losing to South Carolina.

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