Huggins Sees Promise In Mix Of Talent
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The crowd had settled into their seats for Friday nights Gold and Blue Debut, which introduces the new Mountaineer men’s basketball players to their fans. As the introductions began, players ran down the carpet.
Old names …. Sagaba Konate, Esa Ahmad, Lamont West.
And new names the fans will come to know … Derek Culver, Andrew Gordon, Jordan McCabe, Jermaine Haley.
Then then they introduced the man himself, Bob Huggins, one-time player, now 12-year coach, a man on a direct path toward the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
The fans stood and cheered, then waited breathlessly as he took the microphone from Tony Caridi, the play by play man.
Huggins had one promise for the fans.
“Press Virginia is alive and well,” said emphatically, drawing a roar from the crowd.
You could tell right off Huggins likes this team he is bringing into the 2018-19 season, a team that just picked to finish third behind Kansas and Kansas State in the Big 12 Preseason Coaches poll.
“We got a chance,” he told the crowd, which is saying a lot for a coach while putting his team together.
That’s not to say it’s there yet.
“I think we can rebound. I think we can guard,” Huggins said. “Like most sports it’s played with a ball. We need to learn to throw it to our team. We are very charitable.”
It is that aspect of the game that worries Huggins the most, even after his Gold team beat his Blue team, 64-58, in a game that highlighted what WVU can do and what it has to work on.
“We have talent. It’s just how fast we learn,” Huggins said.
The talent showed itself in many ways, first with the obvious and that being Konate and how much a better player he can be this year.
In the game he scored 15 points, had six rebounds and five blocks but there was so much hidden in that line.
To begin with, he stepped out and hit a 3, which is something that lit Huggins’ eyes up.
“I’ve been hoping he can be like Kevin Jones was and stretch the defense,” Huggins said. “He shot well from 15 feet toward the end of last year.”
Then there were a couple of assists from him, a sign that his passing has picked up and even once he took the ball from one end of the floor to the other and finished it off with a dunk, but that had Huggins shutting his eyes.
“I don’t want him dribbling it,” he said. “He’ll end up running over people and we don’t want him getting unnecessary fouls.”
There was Esa Ahmad, too, showing off his new body, hitting six of nine shots while scoring 12 points with nine rebounds and three assists to go with three steals.
And Wesley Harris looks like he may wind up being a big time scorer, hitting six of seven shots, two of three from 3-point range to finish with 16 points.
Also featured inside was the play of newcomer Derek Culver, who can protect the rim and also rattle it, hitting five of seven, most of them dunks, for 10 points to go with six rebounds.
“We don’t just have Sags as a rim protector,” Huggins said, referencing Culver and Andrew Gordon, another new big man who had six points and four rebounds.
That the passing wasn’t yet smooth was shown in 16 turnovers from the two teams. Freshman Jordan McCabe showed flashes of his ability but had a rough introduction by hitting two or nine from the floor, zero of four from 3-point range and offsetting four assists with five turnovers.