Hunter Adjusting To WVU’s Style
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Equate it to how hard it is to go in and ask your boss for a raise.
Now imagine how hard it would be to go in and ask a coach as intimidating as Bob Huggins how you can get more playing time.
Mountaineer junior D’Angelo Hunter mustered up the courage not long ago and asked his head coach for a few minutes of his time.
“It was difficult,” admitted Hunter, a first-year junior college transfer of his meeting with Huggins. “It was on my mind for a week or so. I just woke up that morning and decided I was going to sit in front of his office and wait for him. I thought that was the best way to approach it – face to face – rather than going to an assistant or something. I think that helped our relationship as well.
“The main thing he told me was just play hard,” Hunter explained. “That’s what he wants from me. He called me over before (Saturday’s exhibition) and told me just play hard. That’s the biggest thing he wants from me, to play hard. He says at times I play at a glide, and I’m trying to adjust to that, to go 100 percent every play. He says he’s seeing that from me in practice, so I’m trying.”
Huggins has often said that coaches don’t dictate playing time, players do. The effort a player gives both in practice and games will earn him opportunities. It’s not about the coach just handing out playing time like he’s dealing cards.
“I think it’s coming along ever since I had my talk with Coach Huggins,” Hunter said of his understanding of what he needs to do. “I looked him in the eye and told him I wanted to play, I wanted to help the team. Me practicing hard is a big part of that. I thought I was practicing hard before, but how I’m practicing now is a huge difference.”
Through West Virginia’s first 10 regular season games, playing time for Hunter had come in spits and sputters. He had seen action in eight of WVU’s first 10 games, and other and 11 minutes of action in the blowout win over Morgan State – when he also had a season-high eight points – he’d never been on the court for more than eight minutes in any single game nor scored more than three points. For the season as a whole, he was averaging 2.0 points a game.
Saturday’s exhibition against Wheeling Jesuit was a perfect opportunity for the 6-foot-6 guard to get significant game experience. He wound up playing 23 minutes, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
“We wanted to get a look at D’Angelo, because he hadn’t played a lot,” said Huggins.
“We have to spend more time with him,” Huggins added of Hunter, who was 5-of-11 from the field but also had three turnovers. “He turned it over too much, but we do that as a team as well. We work like crazy to create turnovers, but then we hand it back too many times.”
Hunter performed better as Saturday’s exhibition went along. He made just one of his six field goal attempts in the first half, but canned 4-of-5 in the second half.
“I got into the flow of the game the more I was in there,” noted Hunter. “Watching and practicing are different than actually being in a game and getting used to the flow. As I was in more, I started to get used to the flow and adjusting and helping my teammates be more successful.
“The game finally started to slow down for me today, and I started to feel comfortable,” explained the Louisville native who spent the past two seasons at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, which is about 50 miles southeast of Dallas. “I hadn’t played that many minutes since junior college. Everything had been moving fast, and I think I was moving too fast as a result. But in the second half today, I thought everything started to slow down, and I just let the game come to me.”
After prep stops at Pleasure Ridge Park High in Louisville and St. John Northwestern Military in Delafield, Wis., D’Angelo headed south to Navarro College. After a freshman season in which he averaged 8.4 points a game, he upped that output to 15.8 points and 4.8 rebounds a game as a sophomore.
But juco isn’t Power 5.
“It’s been a tough transition,” admitted Hunter. “In junior college, I could take plays off. Under Huggins, you can’t take any plays off or you’ll be exposed. Practicing every day against the best backcourt in the nation (with Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles), it’s tough every day. You have to play very hard every day, because both of them are so experienced and know the game so well, if you’re not focused every day, you’ll stand out in a bad way.”
Making the adjustment to playing hard every moment is something Hunter is getting used to, but such effort goes along with what he believes his strengths are.
“Energy and rebounding. Being long and getting deflections on defense. Anything the team needs,” the multidisciplinary studies major said when asked to list his strengths.
It’s all about adjustments, even when it comes to Press Virginia’s defense.
“I’ve pressed my whole life, but West Virginia’s press is different,” noted Hunter. “It has different principles, so you have make adjustments. I’m still making those adjustments, but I feel I’ll be better at it in the future.”