Huggins Promises Improvement, Players Back Him Up


At a recent event in Boone County, Bob Huggins admitted to the fans who he spoke in front of that he had failed them in at least one aspect of his job last season with the West Virginia University basketball team.

He told the fans that he didn't do a good enough job teaching his players what it meant to play for the state of West Virginia. He didn't teach them about the people who inhabited the state and the hard work they put in at their jobs and in their family lives every day.

For Huggins, a native of the state, he feels that these values are just as important to his team's success as the fundamentals of the game itself. He preaches this message quite often in post game press conferences, whether the Mountaineers have just wrapped up a win on the court or a loss.

In a 13-19 season, the message was mostly used after losses, pointing out what his team lacked.

A similar sort of speech was used to propel the 2010 WVU basketball squad to a Final Four, if you believe in the power of spoken word to make such an impact in the actual games. This past year, though, as often as he brought it up, Huggins couldn't fix what played out on the court. As many different lineups and schemes as he drew up for each game, he couldn't get the outcome to go his way.

Now, many of the players who made up that roster are gone. Replacing them are four freshmen and two transfers, assuming each of them pass the eligibility requirements and make it to campus. Three have done so already, including Morgantown High School's Nathan Adrian.

Growing up in the state, in the same town as that which houses the WVU basketball team, has given Adrian a real sense of what the Mountaineers mean to the locals. He watched their poor play a year ago and knew just how much it affected the fans who invest so much time and energy into the team each season.

"I do know how important it is because I've been a fan my whole life," says Adrian. "They've gone through their ups and downs and the whole town is just more fun when the teams are winning. Hopefully we can get back to that."

Joining Adrian in the Pittsburgh Pro Am Summer League this year are the two other enrolled freshmen, Brandon Watkins and Devin Williams.

Williams did not grow up in Morgantown like Adrian did, but he gained an understanding of West Virginia's fans by visiting campus and watching the team throughout his senior year. He knows what the hardships did to the players and the staff as they struggled through their schedule and his plan is to be a major part of the effort to turn it around.

"I pretty much watched every game, at least all of the Big 12 games. It was kind of hard watching, but that's one of the reasons I committed," Williams says. "The fan support, even when they were losing, they were still behind them and stuff like that. I came in early because I don't want to have a season like that. We don't like losing, Coach Huggs don't take losing well, Eron [Harris] don't take losing well, I don't take losing well. As a team, that's not acceptable for this year."

Williams mentions Harris, and though Huggins expresses that he didn't get the message through to his team last year, he may be excluding the sophomore guard in this instance. Back in early June, Huggins said that he and his staff like to refer to Harris as "one of us." He didn't get into much detail with regards to what he meant by that, but Harris thinks he has a good idea.

"It's a loyal guy. I think loyalty is the biggest thing," says Harris. "A hard worker, a guy who doesn't complain about anything, goes in there and works and gives his all every single time, [and] doesn't talk back. I'm learning. My first year, in the beginning, I was kind of talking back, but I'm starting to just take it all in. I think that's what it means to be one of us."

Harris says for everyone else on the team to become "one of us," they'll need strong leadership from the few veterans who are left at WVU.

Huggins is hopeful that each of his players will gain that distinction and carry it over into making this season far better than the one they have left behind.

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