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Rutledge Growing Into Role at WVU

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At the beginning of the season Bob Huggins probably would have laughed if you told him he would need to rely on Dominique Rutledge to help get his team into the NCAA Tournament. However, that is the situation for the Mountaineers.

Rutledge's role has continued to grow, mostly because of injuries to players in front of him in the rotation. Freshman Pat Forsythe went down first with an injured knee. That was followed about a month later by Kevin Noreen's broken ankle. Rutledge went from the fifth big man on the team to the third. He is the first and only option for Huggins when he needs a big man to relieve either Deniz Kilicli or Kevin Jones.

"Dom's getting better," Huggins said. "KJ and Deniz have been great. They stay on him about taking plays off. He gets a little tired and he stops working hard and they say you can't do this, you can't do this because we have 20 feet of humanity sitting on the bench that can't play."

Rutledge scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds against DePaul. He scored six points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the previous game against Marquette.  Rutledge averaged 17 minutes in those two games, which is a sign that his role on the team is expanding.

"I think I have always been a pretty good rebounder," Rutledge said. "But it wasn't my focal point. Now I feel that the team needs me to get those rebounds and that is what I am being most aggressive at doing."

Rutledge's role is to provide defensive support and get rebounds. Huggins has been clear that Rutledge is still uncertain at times where to go on offense, but that is getting better thanks in large part to some of his teammates.

"KJ has been very helpful," Rutledge said. "He's the Big East Player of the Year. He shows me a lot of little things in the offense to make myself available. As far as the rebounds, it's just who wants it the most and who is the hungriest."

Rutledge grabbed 18 rebounds in his last two games. That is more rebounds than he pulled down in the previous seven games combined.

"I'm getting the hang of everything," Rutledge stated.  "I feel comfortable in the role my coaches have me playing right now. It's a fun role. My role is expanding a little as the time goes on, but right now I am trying to contribute the best way I can."

Rutledge is quick to point out just how patient Bob Huggins has been with him. It would have been very easy for Huggins to be impatient as he watched the guys in front of Rutledge go down with injury.

"I think he has been very patient with me," Rutledge said. "It is a learning process. It's not like you can just understand the program in one day. I got to take my time. I try to take my time with everything and take it all in and be a sponge."

"You should have seen him shoot free throws before I started working with him," Huggins said. "He gets a lot more reps now. Sometimes he looks like he is (more comfortable), sometimes he looks like a duck out of water if you ask me."

Rutledge could be a pleasant surprise for the Mountaineers heading into March. If he can keep giving Huggins about 17 minutes and nine rebounds per game as he has the last two games, then WVU might surprise a few teams along the way and put together some sort of a March run.

That's not a bad year for a guy who started the season as the fifth big man on the roster.

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