Huggins Focused on Future as Harris Moves to MSU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Huggins Focused on Future as Harris Moves to MSU

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MORGANTOWN - A month ago, the media covering West Virginia University received an alert very early on a Saturday morning. There would be a press briefing with the head men’s basketball coach to clear the air on a recent string of defections from the program.

The message that day was twofold: that transfers were not unique to the Mountaineers, but rather a national epidemic of sorts and that WVU itself would be fine despite the loss of three of its top five scorers.

On Monday, West Virginia announced the final piece to the puzzle in replacing the likes of Eron Harris, Terry Henderson and Remi Dibo with the addition of South Plains Community College (Texas) guard-forward Billydee Williams.

The very same day, Harris took to Twitter with the news that he had decided to join Coach Tom Izzo at Michigan State over two other programs he was considering in Michigan and Purdue. His search for a program closer to home landed WVU’s second-leading scorer with about two hours knocked off of his commute.

If anything can be learned from Huggins’ classic story about getting in a truck with no rearview mirrors, it is that the head coach is not worried the slightest bit about where Harris wound up. Just a year ago, Huggins spoke at an event about how Harris was “one of us,” but now that “us” includes some new faces.

When West Virginia opens the 2014-15 season, the roster will feature seven newcomers – two freshmen and three junior college transfers joining Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon on the court.

“We’ve got some new guys that I think we’ve got to get kind of integrated in with the older guys, a couple of guys who sat out a year ago and we have to get them up to snuff,” Huggins said at a recent Coaches Caravan stop in Morgantown. “We haven’t guarded very well for two years and we haven’t been successful as a result for two years. We’ve got to rebound the ball better, but I think we have people who can rebound the ball and I think that’s a great start. We’ve just got to get up there and rebound every ball.”

With workouts getting underway at the basketball practice facility, the coaching staff has gotten an opportunity to see how some of the new players blend with the returning lineup.

“I think we’ve got a bunch who are excited about the possibilities and who wouldn’t want to play with maybe the best point guard in the country,” Huggins said, referring to rising senior Juwan Staten.

A month after detailing the issues that have led to transfers throughout college basketball, Huggins is proving that he is fully focused on the future, not what transpired in March and the early parts of May. As he travels around the state, speaking with fans and friends who are looking forward to next season, he feels that everyone is just as anxious to get the season started as he is.

“I think they’re excited about this next year,” Huggins said. “I think everybody understands how good Juwan is, I think everybody understands what potential our front line guys have, so we get back to kind of being what we were: a team that really guarded, that’s tough to score on and a team that rebounded the ball and got second opportunities.”

One player who excelled with Huggins because of his ability to do just that was Kevin Jones. The former WVU forward was outspoken on Twitter in defending his old coach a month ago and today, he stands by what he said about the credentials Huggins brings to the game and how he witnessed firsthand just what he can do for a player.

“Coach Huggins has everything under control,” Jones said. “He’s a Hall of Fame coach. He knows what he’s doing, he’s won year after year and just because he’s had a couple of rough seasons these past two years, it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t take anything away from him and I truly believe that and I know that they have the talent that they can win with. It’s just a matter of putting it all together and everybody trusted the program and believing in Coach Huggins’ system and I think everything will be fine.”

The key this offseason will be to hurry up and get all of the new pieces mixed with the rest of the roster and begin to develop chemistry as Huggins tries to get his team back where he feels it belongs and back to being a player in the NCAA Tournament. 

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