From the Cheap Seats: What's Next for Mountaineer Basketball? - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

From the Cheap Seats: What's Next for Mountaineer Basketball?

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The WVU men's basketball season is over. Mercifully so, some fans would say. The way the season went, and how it ended, has left many fans with questions about the future. So what does the future hold for this team?

To start, we have to look briefly at what the squad is losing. We all know how important Kevin Jones was to the team. He was a leader, a scorer from both the inside and the outside, the best rebounder this side of Dennis Rodman, and unlike the rest of his teammates, he was consistent. I'll be excited if we can find someone to fill even two of those roles next season.

Truck Bryant has also played his last game as a Mountaineer. While some fans are okay with that, numbers-wise, we are losing the team's second-leading scorer and a guy, who when hot, could go off for high point totals. Replacing the nearly 40 points(on average) per game that came from KJ and Truck, seems like the biggest challenge facing Coach Huggins, going into next season.

Now let's look at who we've got coming back:

Deniz Kilicli: I'm not sure where to start on the "Turk." He improved from the beginning to the middle of the season, but then went backward toward the end. He only seems to have one or two moves around the basket and they usually include an offensive foul or a traveling violation. He's got very little touch around the rim and for a guy his size, seldom seems to go up strong. It may have been related to nagging injuries, but he was often slow to get up and down the floor. He's got to get better around the rim and improve his free-throw shooting to be a force next season.

Dominique Rutledge: It took him two thirds of the season to pick up enough of Huggs' schemes to get any significant playing time, before season-ending injuries to Pat Forsythe and Kevin Noreen forced him onto the floor. Once he got in the game, he showed that he's probably one of the most athletic guys on the team. At times, he also showed that he'd get a little out of control and was quick to pick up fouls. If he can straighten those things out, he looks like he has the potential to be a productive shot-blocker and rebounder, and could average double digits in scoring.

Jabarie Hinds: He had some good games this season, but had even more ineffective ones. He has lightning quick hands and has shown the ability to get to the basket. He'll have to continue to learn how to run Huggins' offense, with less dribbling. He'll also have to become a more consistent scorer. If Hinds can do that, I could see him moving into the shooting guard role Truck filled for much of this season, with Gary Browne and Juwan Staten handling the point.

Gary Browne: I could basically cut and paste the Hinds description here. He's got to become more consistent is all aspects of his game. At times, Browne made hard things look easy and easy things look difficult. He looks to be more of a pure point guard than Hinds and showed he's not afraid to take the big shot. He really needs to dribble less and run offense more.

Aaron Brown: And the beat goes on. Consistency plagued Brown all season long. He's shown that he can shoot from the outside, but then he's been nearly non-existent for two or three games in a row.

Keaton Miles: Despite starting 30 games this season, he never got in any kind of offensive rhythm, averaging just a little more than a point per game. He did defend pretty well and showed some decent athleticism. If he can score even a little, I see him filling a John Flowers-ish role.

Kevin Noreen: He certainly wasn't flashy in the 23 games he played before suffering a season-ending injury, but he showed that he could provide some solid minutes without hurting the team. If he can stay healthy, he could develop into a Cam Thoroughman-type role player.

Paul Williamson: The current Jonnie West, who can come off the bench and loosen the defense with his outside shooting. Much like West, he can only play short spurts without becoming a defensive liability.

Pat Forsythe: Playing in only 7 games before his season was ended by injury, it's hard to get a read on his potential, but he is the tallest guy on the roster.

Then we have the two transfers who sat out this season, but practiced with the team. You have to wonder what taking a year off from playing in real games does to a player, but spending that year under Huggs' tutelage is certainly better than having two freshmen. Both guys bring some pretty impressive stats from their previous college experience.

Aaric Murray: In two seasons, Murray started 58 games for La Salle and led the team in scoring(15.2 ppg) as a sophomore. In only two years, he became the school's second leading shot-blocker. While sitting out this season, Murray was arrested, in his hometown of Philadelphia, on a marijuana possession charge. As long as he can keep his nose clean, he should be able to help us and hopefully can do even more than just help.

Juwan Staten: He played only one season at Dayton and led the Atlantic 10 in assists(190). In contrast, it took Truck two seasons to reach that assist total. Staten also averaged 8.5 points per game and is known as a great defender. Imagine what might have been if he were able to play this season?

Personally, I'm more excited to see the two transfers play than any of the returning guys from this year's team.

There are also three freshmen set to join the Mountaineers; Eron Harris, a 6-3 shooting guard from Indianapolis; Terry Henderson, a 6-5 shooting guard from Raleigh, NC, who's known for his outside shooting; and Elijah Macon, a 6-9 forward, from Huntington Prep.

What it all boils down to is that there are no sure things on next year's roster. We can hope that the guys who played this season learned from all of the close losses and will know better what to expect next season, both from their coach and their competition. We can also hope that Murray and Staten live up to the hype surrounding them and that at least two of the freshmen are able to provide a spark. The biggest thing that I'm hoping for from Staten, the two freshmen guards, and anyone else for that matter, is some consistent outside shooting. Not having a Casey Mitchell or Alex Ruoff killed us this year.

One thing that does stand out about next year's squad, is size. It will be the biggest set of Mountaineers that I can remember in at least the past decade. You have Forsythe at 6 feet 11 inches, Murray and Noreen at 6 feet 10 inches, Kilicli and Macon at 6 feet 9 inches and Rutledge at 6 feet 8 inches. It's starting to look like some of Huggs' Cincinnati teams, by design, I'm sure. That means less need to worry about foul trouble with your big men and the ability to play two of them at the same time, moving Kilicli and Rutledge to their more natural forward spots. It can only help to have guys not playing out of position.

As I said at the beginning, fans have a lot of questions, and while we've explored some of the potential answers, we've got a long summer and fall ahead of us, before finding much of anything out for sure. Do you have more questions or think you've got some of the answers? Share them below.

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