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Huggins anxious to see young team play

October 19, 2011

MORGANTOWN - The West Virginia men's basketball team is the second youngest in Bob Huggins' 30 years as a head coach.

"The other was in 1994 when I was coaching at Akron University," he said earlier this week. "We qualified for the NCAA tournament, but we weren't very good."

Huggins, the nation's fourth winningest among active college coaches, hasn't missed taking a team into the NCAAs many times in his career.

"We won the conference title in that second of five years at Akron, then we weren't in the league the other three years. Then I missed the first two years at Cincinnati."

How does Huggins feel going into this season, with seven freshmen on the squad? "Anxious, I guess," he replied. "Wondering what they're going to do. That's the hard thing.

"Last year, even with everything we went through, the guys we had, I knew what they could give us. And we did OK."

Does he foresee an OK season in 2011-12? He thought for a moment, then responded that "I think so."

But he hints that perhaps he has over-scheduled this time. It's one of the toughest WVU has had, including non-conference powers.

"I think people want to see good basketball," he said. "So we want to make sure we give that to them."

West Virginia has just two starters from last year's team that posed a 21-12 record. Those are forward Kevin Jones and Darryl "Truck" Bryant.

Jones averaged 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

Bryant averaged 11.3 points, 3.0 assists and 2.4 rebounds.

He's to be more of a shooting guard this season.

The only other veteran on the squad is 6-foot-9 forward Deniz Kilicli. The Turkey native averaged 7.7 points per game, 3.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

Two true freshmen, Jabari Hinds and Gary Browne, are battling for a starting job at point guard. Bryant and Joe Mazzula shared time at that position the past two seasons.

Bryant will be mostly a shooter as a senior. Mazzula is now an assistant coach at Glenville State.

Huggins is hopeful that two of the newcomers will compete for the other two starting positions before the season starts.

The veteran mentor, who took most of the players on the summer trip to Italy, hopes some of the freshmen will learn more about what to do on Oct. 29.

That's when the Mountaineers will scrimmage Xavier University men's team.

"I'd like to use a 10-man rotation this year," Huggins said. "But I don't know if I can.

"Yes, I'm curious to see how things work out," he concluded. "I believe that scrimmage will help us a bunch."

The Mountaineers have an exhibition game against Northern Kentucky on Nov. 4. Then they will start the season on Nov. 11 against Oral Roberts at the Coliseum.



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