Kilicli's Hard Work Tested by Tough Non-Conference Stretch - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Kilicli's Hard Work Tested by Tough Non-Conference Stretch

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MORGANTOWN -

Bob Huggins isn't looking for ways to avoid the 7-foot center in his gym Monday night, but rather focusing on how to best use his own big man to combat him.

"We're going to try to get Deniz [Kilicli] not to throw the grenade and maybe go a little stronger at the rim," the WVU head coach said Sunday with a smirk.

It will be Kilicli's job to handle Akron's Zeke Marshall at both ends of the court and the game plan is going to require him to utilize parts of his game that hardly even existed in the past.

The grenade Huggins refers to is Kilicli's hook shot, which for two seasons was his bread and butter. So far through four games, he hasn't been hitting that once unstoppable attempt with any sort of consistency.

In its place, though, he's shown to be a stronger force on the inside and has improved his rebounding to an extent that may finally please his head coach.

"I figure something out, the other doesn't go, you know?" Kilicli says with a hint of a smile.

He and his teammates aren't concerned that the grenade isn't falling just yet. That will come, he's sure. When it does, Huggins is hopeful that the improvements he's made in other areas will make him a far more imposing player on the court.

"Usually it was you flip a coin to see what Deniz was going to show up that day," Huggins says of Kilicli's first two seasons. "He's been great. He's fun to coach now because he listens and he tries to do what you ask him to do. He's gotten so much better defensively and he's rebounding the ball so much better."

The numbers back Huggins up. Through four games, the junior forward has averages 7.5 rebounds per game, significantly better than the four he pulled in each outing as a sophomore.

None of the teams WVU has faced to this point are world-beaters in any sense, and the next few opponents will certainly challenge the Turkey native more than he's been challenged this season. Kilicli believes he's ready for what's coming his way and it all starts with the changes he's made physically since last year ended.

"With rebounding and everything, it's all about getting in shape and putting your mind into getting rebounds," he says. "You can't do it just putting your head into it. You can't do it like that because before when I was a sophomore, I really wanted to rebound. It's not that I didn't want to, I just couldn't. Now, it is way easier to rebound because I can move better than what I did and I'm way quicker."

A full summer in the weight room contributed to the physical changes Kilicli has made, but buying into what his coach has been telling him is also a major part of the transformation.

"I'm talented," Kilicli joked when asked how he's improved on the interior, before giving a more serious account of the work that went into it.

"The whole summer, I ran my ass off and then I worked on my shots and I did work on my shot, but it's not going in right now," he explained. "It's going to click one day. Right now, I'm just trying to get in a rhythm on offense."

Kevin Jones says the changes haven't only been physical. Kilicli's approach to practice and to the intricate details of everyone's contribution on game day has turned him into a better teammate on the court.

"You can just see he's listening more and he's really into the games," says Jones. "Before, he was more about scoring than anything and now he's buying into the whole team defense concept and rebounding concept and it's been working out well for him and we've been playing better as a result of that. Anytime he brings his energy, it's a good thing."

Kilicli may only be a junior, but he's being counted on to help guide a young team that still has plenty of growing to do. In the past, he hasn't been vocal to the extent he is now. Early in the season, you can see Kilicli barking out orders and putting his teammates in the right place if they happen to wander.

That dimension of his game is also something new for the Mountaineers.

"Last year it wasn't my role. I didn't have a leader role," says Kilicli. "I was the younger guy so I was kind of just doing whatever I was doing. Right now I can't do that. I've got to take care of the family. That's how we are – me and Truck and KJ, we have to take care of the kids."

Huggins seems happier with Kilicli and the work he's put in and the 6-foot-9 forward admits that pleasing his head coach certainly makes the days go by more smoothly.

"Oh, it makes it so much better," he says. "We watched the Kent State tape and it was a hell film session, but because I got 15 rebounds he didn't really say anything.

A hell film session is a sign of a loss and Kilicli doesn't want any part in more of those anytime soon. With a tough non-conference stretch set to begin Monday night in Morgantown, he'll be counted on to prove just how much his hard work over the past few months can pay off.

His first task is a 7-foot shot-blocker.

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