Training Room Top Focus For WVU Hoops As It Prepares For Valparaiso
West Virginia has a number of issues to work on after its 2-2 start to the young basketball season, but for head coach Bob Huggins the primary area in focus is one that will be addressed in the training room, not on the court.
“The first priority is to get well,” Huggins said after he and his team resumed practice after returning from the Myrtle Beach Invitational over the weekend. “We didn’t practice on Monday, and we just have to get well. We are banged up.”
Heading the injury list are starters Beetle Bolden and Sagaba Konate. The latter continues to fight swelling in his knee following off-season surgery, while the former has been beset by a list of hurts that is unparalleled in Huggins memory.
“We’re going back a long time, but I don’t think so,” the veteran coach said when asked if he had ever had a player who had been injured more than Bolden. “He’s really down because every time he plays he gets hurt. He had the full body cramps, and missed two days. He has had a run of physical problems. He has spent 5-1 time in the training room vs. on the floor. It’s rough. It’s hard on him because he wants to play so bad.”
Included on Bolden’s list is a lingering hand ligament injury, which he only recently stopped heavily taping, and a shoulder to hip body bruise that came as the result of a crash to the floor in the Myrtle Beach Tournament.
“It’s frustrating in light of the fact that I really believe that if we had Beetle and Sags at end of the Buffalo game, it would have been a different outcome,” Huggins professed. “Beetle getting hurt in Myrtle Beach hasn’t helped him any or us any. It’s just every day somebody comes down with something. It’s going to take some time [to get better] .”
On the plus side, Huggins said Tuesday’s practice, which focused on individual skills, was good. Work on Wednesday will be more team-oriented.
Thursday, the team will have the rare chance to gather for a home (or at least a college home) Thanksgiving.
“We will have a big team dinner, everybody together, staff, managers, everyone. We have had Thanksgiving all over the place in the past,” Huggins noted. “We’ve had Thanksgiving in Cancun, Thanksgiving in Las Vegas, Thanksgiving in Orlando. So this is kind of rare for us.”
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On the court, Huggins is hoping to build on a more encouraging performance in the win over St. Joseph’s on Saturday.
“I thought we played a lot harder vs St. Joe,” he said after evaluating film, which confirmed his immediate post-game impressions. “We got the loose balls better than we had been, and we made plays you need to make to win the game. Obviously Lamont (West) shot the ball very well, then [we played well] with Sags fouling out. The passing was much better, and we had a workable number of turnovers. There were a lot of positives.”
WVU outrebounded the Hawks by ten, and cut its turnover number to 12 — its lowest total of the season.
West, who caught fire coming off the bench, scored 27 points in 25 minutes on 8 of 12 shooting, including 7-11 from 3-point range.
“I think shot selection has a lot to do with it,” Huggins said of the junior’s outburst. “He took the shots he’s good at. He has to do a better job of getting open and we have to do a better job of getting him the ball when he gets open.
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Huggins has never been one to overemphasize one game, even when a win is collected over a blue-blood opponent. Asked what it meant to get a win in such a game, such as Kansas (with an eye toward drawing a parallel with the football team’s contest on Friday against Oklahoma), he had a bit of a different thought.
“When I went to Cincinnati and we beat Louisville, they all went wild and I said ‘Sit down, we are supposed to do this. To get where we want to be, we are supposed to do this.’ You are happy after you win, but it’s not like winning the national championship. It’s A-OK; it’s a great win, but let’s move on.”