Bond with Huggins Helped Kilicli Get Back on Track - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Bond with Huggins Helped Kilicli Get Back on Track


Deniz Kilicli didn't always feel like everyone was in his corner.

When things weren't going well this season, when a nine-game stretch saw the senior averaging just four points in 14 minutes, Kilicli wasn't surrounded by people who tried to encourage him out of the rut.

"There were times where I didn't feel like I was doing the best I can," he admitted after a career performance Saturday. "Not that I didn't want to, I just couldn't do it. It was more like a mental breakdown for me and actually, a lot of people tried to get me down rather than try to get me up."

His head coach picked him up.

With Bob Huggins' help, Kilicli says, he was able to refocus and look forward rather than dwell what had already transpired. A career-high 25 points and eight boards in the win over Texas Tech may have been the culmination of many conversations over a period of time, many of which took place as the team traveled thousands of miles above ground to the next destination on its Big 12 schedule.

"[Huggins] told me some stuff and I trusted him and then I started playing better because mentally, I was in better shape," says Kilicli. "Once he trusts me, I don't care if anybody else trusts me. I really don't care whoever thinks whatever."

Huggins has always said that he thinks quite highly of his Turkish center. The relationship began when he recruited the 6-foot-9 athlete in his prep days and has continued through their four years together with WVU.

It isn't as though things are always peachy between the two. They can often be seen getting into it with each other when the result on the court isn't exactly what Huggins expected. But that doesn't stop them from sharing a mutual respect.

"Deniz and I have always had a really good relationship," Huggins says. "We had a good relationship when he didn't speak English. I didn't know what the hell he was saying, but he always hugged me, so I thought that was all right. I didn't know."

So when the Turk, who now speaks English as well as anyone else on the roster, came to Huggins on the team plane looking for guidance, it was provided.

Neither would shed real details on exactly what was said, but knowing the two and their self-proclaimed stubbornness, the conversations likely never went off without some hiccups.

"I just go up to him and be like, ‘This is what's going on, what I got to do?' I mean, he helped me a lot. It's going the way it's going right now," Kilicli says.

The way it's going right now is the senior is fresh off his best performance of the year in a win over Texas Tech and has averaged 31.4 minutes and 13.8 points in the last five games for the Mountaineers. He played all but two minutes of the last outing and only picked up two personal fouls, while three of the Red Raiders' post players fouled out.

West Virginia's offense is going through the big man, which was the plan to open the season, and others are getting their production in turn.

"How are we going to score without Deniz?" Huggins asked. "The other thing that Deniz does is he gets other people open because they have to help. They just have to help and I think Eron Harris has been a recipient of Deniz making more than one guy have to guard him."

The freshman Harris has certainly come on along with his veteran teammate's success. Over the course of those previous five games, the guard is averaging 15.8 points and now leads the Mountaineers in scoring for the season.

"I'll tell you the other thing that people don't appreciate – he's our best guy at helping on ball screens," Huggins adds of Kilicli. "He's our only big that can trap a ball screen. Does he do it all the time? No, but the truth is, we ask him to do a whole lot of stuff."

Kilicli knows a lot will be asked of him from this point forward to help the team determine its postseason destination. When asked what he expects from the Mountaineers for the remainder of the schedule, he says he doesn't know what to expect, but he knows he will take a long vacation when his WVU career comes to a close.

"I'm just going to do my part of the job the best I can and I feel like that's the way I can help the team and I don't worry about the rest of it," says Kilicli. "I can assure you that I'm going to play as much as I can play and give 110 percent if I can."

His head coach, who recounts numerous talks the two have had at his own house, wouldn't anticipate anything less.

"I think at the end of the day, Deniz isn't a quitter," says Huggins. "Everybody gets frustrated. I may be at the head of the class when it comes to frustration, but he's not a quitter. That's not Deniz."

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