WVU's Huggins: "We Are Fine" - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU's Huggins: "We Are Fine"

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MORGANTOWN - Bob Huggins wanted to set the record straight.

With transfer numbers flying and questions coming from fans and media alike, the West Virginia basketball coach made one thing clear in a Saturday morning press conference: The Mountaineers will be fine.

Facing recent revelations that Terry Henderson had asked to transfer and Remi Dibo would almost certainly head home to France to play professional basketball, Huggins pointed to the pieces that WVU would be gaining rather than dwelling on those it would leave behind.

“We have five guys to add to what we had a year ago, minus those guys,” Huggins said. “When you look at it that way, it doesn’t look so bad, does it?”

The five Huggins refers to include incoming freshmen guards Daxter Miles and Jevon Carter along with junior college guard Tarik Phillip, who signed with the Mountaineers after Eron Harris told the team that he would transfer at the end of March.

Those three, along with four-year veteran Gary Browne and the biggest piece to the puzzle, Juwan Staten, leave WVU with five guards to handle to positions. That doesn’t make up for the fact that Harris and Henderson take with them nearly 29 points per game, but Huggins is banking on the fact that one of those players still on the roster can handle the added responsibility.

“We’ve got probably the leader for the Big 12 Player of the Year coming back returning who’s going to have the ball in his hands,” Huggins said of Staten. “I don’t think there’s another team in our league that can say that.”

Staten led the conference in both scoring (18.1 per game) and assists (5.4) as a junior on his way to landing first team All-Big 12 honors. His return is the most important factor to whatever success WVU can have in the 2014-15 slate, but losing three of the top five scorers will temper any expectations, regardless of what help is on its way.

The guard play wasn’t the issue a year ago, but rather the production closer to the basket from the big men. Opponents outrebounded WVU and while the young group of post players had a breakout game or two along the way, consistency became an issue.

Enter Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon, two players waiting in the wings as they regain eligibility and rejoin their teammates on the court. Holton, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward, sees himself as a walking double-double. When asked his expectations for the coming season, he did not hesitate before stating that anything less than double digits scoring and rebounding would be a disappointment.

Holton has been involved in all of WVU’s practice this past season, but Macon has only been able to participate in the strength and conditioning program. Their size and athleticism are two keys to what Huggins hopes to accomplish this coming season.

“The teams that win are teams that get easy shots,” Huggins said. “Second-chance points are considered easy shots. They’re close to the basket. I think we’ll be able to do that. We’ll be bigger, we’ll be longer.”

In fact, that length, which was a buzzword for the Final Four team in 2010, is what has Huggins most excited. Back then, it was a disruptive force on defense and created mismatches up and down the lineup. The head coach believes the roster he has in place now is much closer to what was on the floor against Duke in Indianapolis.

One part of his defense that he expects to improve greatly is the success on ball screens as he hopes the size and athleticism he has on the court will allow him to switch all ball screens without creating a negative match-up.

“You can’t switch things when you play two little guards or you play a guy who’s 180 pounds and you can’t switch him onto a big, obviously,” Huggins said. “But you can switch a bigger, longer guy. The other thing that the length does is the length takes away passing lanes and passing angles, which I think is what everybody talked about in the past. I think we’re closer being back to that than we’ve been in awhile.”

There is no doubt that Huggins has a challenge on his hands, but that isn’t stopping him from facing the upcoming season with optimism.

“We’re going to be fine,” he said. “We are fine. I’m excited about the year and what we’re doing.” 

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