Young Mountaineers Learning to Win Early in Season - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Young Mountaineers Learning to Win Early in Season


It's only four games into the schedule and West Virginia is faced with a new teaching point. The roster full of youth must now learn to handle prosperity.

"Coach Huggs says every time we don't have to learn losing – we can learn winning," says freshman guard Gary Browne. "I think that these last games, we've been doing that and we've been getting better every game we've played."

When the Mountaineers overcame adversity a week ago to beat Alcorn State, Bob Huggins downplayed its significance. They were expected to beat the Braves, so why would he see it as a sign that his team had rebounded and improved?

The same can be said about Morehead State. Just a week ago, the Eagles lost to Mountain State University. If an NAIA opponent could beat this team, the state's Division-I NCAA program should be able to blow by it.

That's what happened with an 83-48 final, but the message now is not to allow the success in this game or the last get to their heads. The Mountaineers are beating teams they are expected to beat, and soon there won't be too many of that sort of team left on the schedule.

"We got Akron at home and then Mississippi State, then Kansas State on the road. We've got a tough road ahead of us," says senior Kevin Jones. "I'm happy for this win, it builds our confidence, but we definitely have a long road ahead."

This time last year, the Mountaineers had plenty of veteran experience and a much more difficult schedule with teams like Vanderbilt and Minnesota lined up in Puerto Rico.

It wasn't nearly the same learning process as what it is now, especially given that Kevin Noreen was the only freshman on the team compared to the large group that graces the court and the bench this season.

Because of that inexperience, each game brings something new to focus on, something more worth paying attention to and improving in practice before the next outing. Winning is just as much a part of that process as anything.

"We definitely were expressing that to them, me and Truck, because we've been here so long so we know how to win and how to lose," says Jones. "When you lose, you've got to get it out of your head as quick as possible because it's a grueling schedule that we've got. When you win, you've got to take it for what it is, especially with games like this."

And especially with games like what WVU has coming up on the horizon. After taking on an Akron team that beat Mississippi State in its opener, the Mountaineers will face those Bulldogs, which have just one loss and have already defeated two Top 20 opponents.

"That'll do one thing," says Truck Bryant, "[either] show the freshmen that they're not there yet or show that they have arrived and that we'll be fine throughout the whole process, throughout the whole Big East."

Bryant remembers his own freshman season and the hardships he faced trying to compete and grow after being forced into early action. Now he's a senior and watching his teammates go through the very same adversities he knew well that year.

Already, he's seeing the growth from players who just a week ago were making mistakes that showed their age.

"We've improved tremendously," says Bryant. "Defensively, we've been everywhere on defense, helping each other out and switching some stuff, guard to guard and I think we've just been doing a great job."

Huggins echoes what Bryant claims.

"We're getting better. You can't do what we do every day and not get better," he says. "Coming in and playing hard is not optional. We don't take a team vote before practice and decide that. They're good kids. They want to learn."

This season, they've been faced with learning on the fly. Adjusting to play at this level and adjusting to the changes they need to make to their own game. Soon, they'll need to get to a point where they understand what is expected of them and go out and do it, not wait for instruction from their head coach or veteran teammates.

Each game until that point is another chance at building their confidence, another chance at improving and another chance at learning from wins and losses. The charge from now on is to have more wins than losses.

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