Huggins Likes His Team’s Chemistry
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–So the question was, with so many new parts, is Bob Huggins’ West Virginia basketball team ready for a game?
After all, the Mountaineers leave Saturday for a foreign tour in Spain where they will play three games against local professional teams.
“No,” answered Huggins when asked if his club was ready, “but this will be good for us. We have so many new guys. I’m trying not to go too fast. This will be good.”
Huggins hopes the trip to Spain will help his team both on the court and off, as it looks to bounce back from last year’s disastrous 15-21 campaign.
“Hopefully we guard better than we did a year ago. Hopefully we pass better than a year ago,” said Huggins, who holds an 860-362 record as a college head coach. “I think we’re getting better. I think they want to, and that’s a big part of it. I think they want to get better, I think they enjoy shutting people down, and I think they really enjoy passing the ball to each other. We have several guys who are shot makers. If we can get them to share the ball to get a better shot than the one we have, then we’re making some strides.”
West Virginia’s coach also said this year’s club already seems close, so it doesn’t necessarily need the team-bounding aspect that such a tour can bring about, but it also can’t hurt.
“Even guys who may not like each other have to talk to each other on these trips, because there is nobody else to talk to,” smiled Huggins wryly. “These trips help, but this group is already as good as we’ve had in a while. They hang out together, they spend a lot of time together, they’re in the gym together. I don’t know if the team building thing will be quite as important for this group as maybe it would be for some. The important thing for us is we just have a lot of guys who haven’t played at this level. They’re talented enough to play at this level, and this trip should give them an idea of how hard you have to play, and how you can’t take plays off.
“Everybody usually gets along until you get people in the stands,” he added. “Then you get someone in their ear saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to get yours.’ I think that’s what changes everything. It’s the people on the outside looking to get something out it for themselves.
“We’re not asking them to go out on a date or anything,” continued Huggins in terms of being good teammates. “We’re just asking them to play together on the floor. Now I think this group is different. They do enjoy being around each other.”
West Virginia, which gets 10 valuable practice sessions prior to the foreign tour, will play three games while in Spain, starting on Tuesday, Aug. 6 at 1:30 p.m. (Eastern time) against the Madrid All-Stars. WVU will then travel to three Valencia Basketball Academy for a game on Friday, Aug. 9 at 1:30 (ET). It will close out the tour on Sunday, Aug. 11 at 1:30 (ET) against the Barcelona All-Stars. The Mountaineers return home on Tuesday, Aug. 13.
Huggins expects strong competition from the Spanish teams.
“I don’t know what they’ll do defensively, but offensively, they’ll probably penetrate and pitch,” he said. “They’re good. Basketball in Spain is very, very good. This will be a great challenge for a bunch of young guys.”
* * * * * *
Huggins was asked if there is anything new to report on the status of Ethan Richardson, the junior college center who signed with West Virginia this summer but has not yet enrolled in school. “None that I can disclose,” WVU’s coach said cryptically.
Richardson is the only Mountaineer signee who is not yet with the team. All the other members are expected to accompany the squad to Spain.