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Confidence, Experience Key to WVU Basketball in 2012

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MORGANTOWN -

The work to make a splash in the Big 12 has been underway for months inside the WVU Basketball Practice Facility.

Open gym sessions, workouts and film studies have overtaken the impressive new digs and the future of the program is molding itself into the product that will take the court across the street in the Coliseum and throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa.

Fantasy Camp has taken over the facility this weekend, so the Mountaineer players were looking for a different venue after countless hours of practice and a few found their way to Marion County.

Sophomore forward Kevin Noreen and guard Gary Browne volunteered their time to meet with fans at the Relay for Life event at Fairmont State University and took a moment to discuss their offseason in preparation for the coming year.

It is obvious that everything head coach Bob Huggins hoped for in the new facility is working out for his team.

"It has everything we need. It's great," says Noreen. "It's much better than the Coliseum just because of the availability factor. With the Coliseum, we were fighting for gym time with volleyball and the girls' team, but now we have our own court that we can get on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's been a real luxury for us this late spring, early summer."

The players are still left to their own devices at this point, practicing with each other but without the watchful eye of coaches until individual workouts begin on ____.

They have been without Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant for the first time in their careers and though the loss of last season's two leading scorers will take some getting used to, there is a confidence that the remaining pieces will blend together well.

"We lost two guys that are really important to our team, but we've been practicing for the whole year with the whole team," Browne says, indicating familiarity with transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten. "We know what we want to do for next season, so we're supposed to be ready to go as soon as we start playing the season."

Both Murray and Staten have been waiting in the wings, sitting out for a whole year of competition to reap the benefits of the 2012-13 season in Morgantown. In the meantime, they have become teachers, mentors and cheerleaders, and the impact is clear when you speak with their teammates.

"They've been pushing us, Juwan especially," says Noreen. "He's going to be the captain for next year and he's really been getting on us guys when we're not playing hard."

Noreen does not shy away from calling Murray and Staten starters when he looks forward to the coming year. He has seen them practice everyday since last summer and is acutely aware of what each is capable of.

In addition to those transfers, the returning players, all so young a year ago, are poised for a more veteran role a season later.

"The one thing they always say about freshmen is they aren't freshmen anymore, they're sophomores," says Noreen. "So everyone's going to be a year older, a year wiser."

That includes Noreen, who has seen each of his first two seasons for West Virginia end early due to injuries. He is hopeful to finally get that full schedule under his belt in year three with the Mountaineers and believes everything he has learned from Huggins over the past two seasons will give him a chance to help the team reach its goals.

"I just hope to use that knowledge and experience I've gotten going into next year. I think we're due for a successful year," he says. "Last year, we started off really well and we just hit a wall. We weren't playing hard, we weren't able to bring the intensity everyday in practice, but I think this year we're past that. We know what's expected of us and we're going to do it this year."

What is expected is success. The Mountaineers have grown accustomed to it in recent years and the stumble to the finish line through the first few months of 2012 had the team and its fan base frustrated and concerned for the future.

The plan is to stay strong from start to finish, with a run in the NCAA Tournament that last much longer than last season's one game.

"That's not a doubt," says Browne. "We are working hard in the summer and we're going to work hard as soon as the season starts. We just can't wait to get started. I just want to let the Mountaineer Nation know that we're going to be really good next season."

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