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Huggins Asks Players to Be More Like WVU Past

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. -

For a man who tells an old tale about riding in a pickup truck with no rear view mirrors every chance he gets, Bob Huggins sure does enjoy bringing up the past.

So often this season, the West Virginia head coach has made comparisons of his current players to those who he once taught in his six years at his alma mater.

He uses stories of the athletes he inherited, and some who he recruited to Morgantown himself, to illustrate what can be accomplished if only his students that make up the team now would show the work ethic and the desire that those in previous years mustered up.

"Since I've been here, we have had guys that were very committed to what we were doing," Huggins said after WVU fell to Michigan 81-66 on Saturday. "I was very impressed and very grateful to the Darris Nichols and Jamie Smalligans and those guys who bought in. I mean, they bought in from day one and were committed to doing what I wanted them to do. And then we lose Joe [Alexander] and we lose Darris and we lose Jamie and Da'Sean [Butler] stepped up and Wellington Smith got a whole lot better."

Many of these postgame press conferences have turned into opportunities for name-dropping. The same was true at times last season, though he would point at his seniors in that campaign as examples along with the history lesson.

"Those guys love being in the gym and then we lose those guys," Huggins said of the past players. "Kevin Jones loved being in the gym. Kevin Jones got screwed. He was the best player in the Big East."

Perhaps the head coach strayed from the topic of conversation with that last bit, referencing Jones losing out on the conference player of the year honor to Marquette's Jae Crowder, or perhaps his point is that none of the personnel that makes up his roster now would be mistaken for the league's best player.

The reason for that, Huggins seems to believe, begins with the lack of time spent in the gym.

"I don't want to tell you who was in the gym and who wasn't in the gym, but you can probably figure it out," Huggins said of the 11 Mountaineers who made it into the game against the Wolverines. "Look at the minutes played. That'll help you."

The minutes that stand out on the stat sheet belong to Deniz Kilicli and Jabarie Hinds. Both are starters, as they have been all season, and neither even posted 10 minutes in a game against the No. 3 team in the nation. Freshman guard Terry Henderson led all Mountaineers with 36 minutes played.

Kilicli, just three games removed from a 21-point outing in a win over Marshall, failed to score a single point on three shot attempts.

In the nine minutes the senior center played, Michigan outscored West Virginia 25-9. Without Kilicli on the court, which was the case for the majority of the game, the Mountaineers held a 57-56 advantage.

"Deniz hasn't finished anything around the rim and we're not playing Deniz for his defensive ability, obviously," Huggins said of his senior. "You just can't keep doing it and we can't give a lot of what we do around somebody that's not going to finish. I love Deniz and I want you to understand that. I love Deniz. Deniz is one of my favorite guys of all time. I love him to death. I'm not sure I love anybody enough to lose for them. I don't know if I love my wife that much to lose for her."

The fact that Dominique Rutledge, in his first significant action of the season, more than doubled Kilicli's minutes says something of the message that Huggins was sending to the fourth-year player. The fact that Volodymyr Gerun, who had previously never seen the court in a college game, logged just one minute less than Kilicli says even more.

But at least Kilicli made the trip. The same cannot be said for Aaric Murray, the junior center who was left behind when the rest of the team traveled to Brooklyn. While Huggins did not share any real details, he gave a no-nonsense response when asked why the big man had to stay home.

"This is my university. I love this university and we're going to do right," he said. "We're going to represent it the right way, we're going to do the right things and if they don't do the right things, they're not going to play."

Huggins went on to say that he has "left guys home way, way, way better than Aaric Murray."

"Honestly, did we miss him?" Huggins asked. "I don't think so. I don't think we did. And if he doesn't do right in the future, we won't miss him in the future, either. I mean, I kind of feel bad he's gone, but I'm not going to miss him. We're going to do right and that goes for all of them."

That is because for now, Huggins can't pick out the players who he wants to be the example for the rest of the team. He has a litany of guys to point to who did it in the past, but when referencing a roster full of players who he and his staff are responsible for bringing to West Virginia, he frequently appears unable to drop the same compliments.

He clearly saw something in them when he asked them to join him with the Mountaineers, but until they prove it in the gym and on the court – and presumably in the classroom and in the community – Huggins will continue to pull out his rear view mirror and gaze longingly at the players who once stood before him.

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