The long road to the 2020 NCAA Tournament has officially begun for the West Virginia men’s basketball, as the team has completed its first day of practice. Since a lot of pieces have moved around since their last go on the court, there may be some aspects of the team that are relatively new to fans, and even the coaches.
For Coach Bob Huggins, this is especially true of his player’s intangibles. Throughout the off-season, his team has gone through a wide array of team-building activities, including paintball, bowling, skeet shooting, and visiting the children’s hospital.
“They have embraced that,” Huggins said of his current squad. “I’m not so sure that’s been the case the last few years.”
Huggins attributes this change to his players’ personalities, namely their willingness to forge a bond with one another. Players like Jordan McCabe and Emmitt Matthews, he says, make an effort to be inclusive of their fellow teammates, making his job easier.
Even freshman Oscar Tshiebwe, who Huggins says was the last player to arrive, was immediately taken under his teammates’ wing.
“A year ago, it was like you’re trying to coach effort and you’re trying to coach basketball, and it’s hard to do both,” Huggins explained. “These guys, their effort’s been terrific, their attitude’s been great, they spend a lot of time in [the practice facility].”
This year’s team will debut overseas on a preseason tour that will take them to Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, Spain for three match-ups against unfamiliar opponents. The foreign scenery and new experiences, Huggins hopes, will bring his players closer together.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for them to bond, we’ve got a lot of new guys,” Huggins said, “and the more time they spend together, the better that’s going to be for us.”
Even though all of his players are getting along, Huggins emphasized that there is still a lot of work to do on the court. In fact, he feels that his team isn’t quite ready to run his trademark full-court press yet, but he wants to get to that point for the season.
“It’s gonna take a while. We can’t guard in the corner court right now with all these new guys,” Huggins said. “But, that’s where we want to get to. I’m not sure we’ll get to do it in Spain, but we will get to do it.”