It was difficult to tell who was more excited to see the WVU basketball team in Fairmont Saturday – the kids or the Mountaineers' new point guard.
Jabarie Hinds – dressed in a United Way t-shirt, WVU sweat pants and some bright red shoes – ran a dribbling and layup drill with Marion County children as part of his first public event with the Mountaineers.
In a summer filled with apprehension as to whether or not he would achieve the necessary SAT score needed to enroll at WVU, Hinds admits there were times he feared he might not make it to campus.
"After a while, I was sitting back waiting on the NCAA, just taking long, I was nervous and I finally got that call," says Hinds. "I just packed up my bags and came down as soon as possible."
According to West Virginia assistant Erik Martin, who led the basketball clinic Saturday, the coaches had been assured in recent weeks that Hinds had his score. They were simply waiting on the NCAA to process it and make him eligible for the start of the semester.
On Wednesday, he was declared eligible and began taking college courses Friday in Morgantown.
"It's good," says Hinds. "Morgantown's a great city, the fans everybody is so friendly, nice. I'm adjusting well, I've just got to find out where all my classes are Monday and throughout the week and I should be good after that."
Martin says he wanted to make a conscious effort to get Hinds out in the community so the fans would have a chance to see him and he could begin acclimating to his new surroundings. He also must be quite content with the fact that his highest-rated recruit is ready to go, even if he missed the entire summer with the team.
He cautions fans not to get too excited about their newest weapon, though.
"It's not high school, it's college," says Martin. "I don't think people should go into it thinking that Jabarie's going to come in and be Kyrie Irvin or whatever – he's a good point guard. We have two point guards now and two off guards and that was the reason we recruited who we did."
Truck Bryant, who has spent time at both the one- and two-guard during his three seasons at WVU, is excited for the competition that both Hinds and fellow freshman Gary Browne will provide this year.
"They're saying he's supposed to beat me in the backcourt," Bryant laughs. "I'm just going off what I hear. Gary's been doing a great job and it's good that Gary got here on time and it's just rough for Jabarie because he hasn't been here so he doesn't know what to expect yet. We're going to have to get him and Gary going and we're going to need them."
Perhaps part of the reason Bryant has been hearing that Hinds will supplant him as the point guard is because people are buying into what Bob Cimino is selling. Cimino, head coach at Hinds' Mt. Vernon High School, is on record as saying either Hinds or former UConn star Ben Gordon are the best players he's ever coached.
Kevin Jones is another of Cimino's pupils, and he says he has faith in his former coach's assessment of talent.
"He knows what he's talking about and if he sees something special in Jabarie then that means that there's really something there and how quick it develops and how quickly he gets ahold of everything – it's going to take time, of course, but eventually he'll get it and he'll be a key part in what we do this year," says Jones.
Hinds is already getting a feel for just how far he has to come in order to contribute on the court this season. He's accustomed to playing against top prep talent, but he knows what's waiting for him in college is a different beast than anything he's faced before.
"I haven't done any open gyms yet, but I did do my first weight lifting down here. It was crazy, but it's only going to help me," he says. "The Big East is no joke, so I just want to get bigger and stronger so that I'm prepared."
Martin says there's no question the biggest thing Hinds will need to focus on is his strength and his understanding of the way things work at West Virginia.
"I'm not really worried about the basketball part as much as I'm worried about the weight room and just learning the offense and getting caught up to what everyone else has learned," says Martin.
Through open gym sessions and one-on-one teaching from his teammates, Hinds hopes to bring himself up to speed in time for the start of team practice in October.