WHEN THE subject is West Virginia University football, there are a lot of opinions around the Mountain State right now.When the subject is WVU basketball, there are a lot of questions.So on Tuesday, I tracked down Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins in search of some answers. Right now, as you may know, West Virginia's team is practicing each day from 4:15 to 7:15 in preparation for the Nov. 5 exhibition game against UNC Pembroke and Nov. 12 opener against Oakland."Just trying to whip these guys in shape," Huggins said. "Trying to execute better offensively. We still have a lot of motion, a lot of freedom, but there are times when we need to run a set. So there's a lot of stuff to do."
How are the freshmen faring?"I only have two," Huggins said. "Kevin [Noreen] and Noah [Cottrill] are out there practicing. They look lost. It's going to take some time. But I like 'em."Noreen is the 6-foot-10, 235-pound freshman from Minneapolis, Minn., and Cottrill is the Mountain State product from (most recently) Logan. The latter has been the subject of swirling rumors, fueled when he was introduced but didn't participate in the team's Midnight Madness.Huggins would simply say Cottrill "had some things to work on." The guard, however, is now in the fold.Ditto Casey Mitchell, who had been suspended for a violation of team rules. He's back now and practicing.If, by the way, you have trouble keeping tabs of Huggins' roster, don't worry. You're not alone. The coach was asked how many players he now has on the team."About 100, it seems like,'' he said. "Too many."
But here's the deal. WVU has 12 active players on scholarship: Truck Bryant, Cottrill, John Flowers, Dan Jennings, Kevin Jones, Deniz Kilicli, Joe Mazzulla, Mitchell, Noreen, Dalton Pepper, Cam Thoroughman and Jonnie West. Darrious Curry, the hard-luck case from Houston, is also on scholarship and attending school, but WVU has applied for a medical exemption so he doesn't count toward the maximum 13 scholarships in the future.The Mountaineers also have four walk-ons in camp: Kenny Ross of Furlong, Pa.; Craig Carey (son of WVU women's coach Mike) of Morgantown High; Jake Ferguson of Nicholas County; and Kerwin Selby of Bel Air, Md.But back to the questions. If you check some websites you'll see the name of Jones, still but a junior, popping up here and there as a possible NBA draft selection next year. Could this be the forward's last season in Morgantown?"I have no idea," Huggins said. "I would think he'd stay. I don't know though. [The NBA] is liable to have a lockout."
Then there was the subject of recruiting. If you've been following, you know Huggins made quite a splash last week by landing commitments from four players to bring the 2011 class to six. Among the four was 5-11 point guard Ryan Boatright, a four-star player from Aurora East (Ill.) High.Huggins wouldn't specifically comment, but there's no doubt Boatright has decommitted (a word, it seems, made up for recruiting purposes) and WVU is out of the standout's picture. He reversed field after finding out the Mountaineers would also sign point guard Jabarie Hinds on Nov. 10. It is the second time Boatright has reversed field. He initially gave his word to USC while in the eighth grade, but dropped that when Tim Floyd left that program. He held a press conference just over a week ago to announce his intentions to attend WVU before again changing his mind. Boatright will visit Connecticut this weekend.
Anyway, Huggins would talk about the upcoming recruiting class in general terms."Initially we were going to give five [scholarships] and save one so we'd have three to give out the following year," said the coach. "So unless someone really good comes along that's what we'll do."Touted high school senior forward Mike Shaw, by the way, apparently won't be a Mountaineer. He's announced a decision is forthcoming on Thursday and is expected to choose between DePaul, Illinois and Marquette.nn
And finally . . .There's good news for WVU fans looking to connect with NBA action. While the Miami Heat cut Da'Sean Butler, two former Mountaineers have made the grade.Butler's former running mate, Devin Ebanks, is on the opening-day roster of the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. Despite being selected in the second round of the most recent draft (43rd overall), Ebanks played well in the Summer League and will see time on the wing even with players like Ron Artest, Matt Barnes and Luke Walton on the roster.In addition, Joe Alexander has made the roster of the New Orleans Hornets. The former lottery pick of the Milwaukee Bucks seemed a bust after playing only 67 games over the last two years and just eight in 2009-10. He was sent from the Bucks to the Chicago Bulls, then sent packing again.Alexander, however, has new life with the Hornets, who want to see if he'd be a better power than small forward. The 6-8, 230-pound player won't be playing away from the basket as much nor will he need to handle the ball much.It's nice for Mountaineer fans, who went decades without one NBA player with which to connect, to now have two.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com
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