Reasons for WVU basketball optimism
WHETHER THE subject is the weather of late or West Virginia basketball, many in the Mountain State are searching for the proverbial silver lining.
Well, today call me Ray O'Sunshine, because I can provide good news on both fronts.
Today and Saturday, the sun is expected to shine in the Charleston area. And in regard to WVU hoops, there are two players practicing with the Mountaineers that give hope for next season.
In addition to the new signees (WVU coach Bob Huggins said on Thursday of the latest, 6-foot-5 shooting guard Terry Henderson, that he "really shoots it and is athletic"), the Mountaineers have center Aaric Murray and guard Juwan Staten in the fold. You might know the former is a transfer from La Salle and the latter from Dayton. NCAA rules dictate they sit out this season before becoming eligible.
I figured, however, in light of West Virginia's rough hoops start, a check on the future might help lift Mountaineer fans.
"They're doing great," Huggins said. "It's a great deal. They get to learn everything. They get to practice. They will be so far ahead [next season]."
Murray is a 6-10, 250-pound talent who made the first cut of the U.S. team for the World University Games. Staten is a guard who went to national prep power Oak Hill Academy before playing at Dayton, where he led the Atlantic 10 in assists as a freshman.
"They're both talented," Huggins said. "Wanny [Staten] had 190 assists as a freshman. That's a lot for anyone, but especially a freshman. He's fast and has great ball skills. Really, really fast.
"Aaric is very talented. He's 6-10 and long as can be. It will be good for him to be in the program, get strong and learn how to play."
"Everything is good," Murray said Thursday. "It's a lot different, but good. It will pay off in the long run."
Murray has NBA aspirations - with good reason. Last season he averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds at La Salle. He had 73 blocked shots, 31 steals, 41 assists and hit 35 percent of his 3-point opportunities (20-of-57).
"He's a great player," Staten said of Murray. "It's amazing the things he can do at his size. He can handle the ball and step out and shoot. He runs well and, when he sets his mind to it, is a good defender. Great player."
Murray said he transferred to WVU mainly because of Huggins, who initially recruited the center out of high school.
"He told me I made one bad decision," Murray laughed, "and told me don't do it again."
Murray, who will have two years of eligibility at WVU, was asked to describe his situation.
"I don't know how to describe it," he said. "I'm just working on my all-around game. I'm working on my energy, trying to stay positive. I'm working on my defense.
"I'm putting in hard work and helping my teammates. It's a good opportunity."
Staten, aka "Wanny," admits there have been rough times.
"At times it can be frustrating, especially early," he said. "There's the excitement of a new season and you're not out there. And when times get tough, you want to be out there.
"I'm just trying to stay positive."
Staten, who will have three years of eligibility remaining, presents as a thoughtful player.
"So far things have been really good," he said. "It's a chance to learn a lot of plays. It's a chance to learn what [Huggins] likes and what he doesn't like. And being on the sideline, you see things you can't in the game. Usually, when you're a player, you hear the coach, but there are times you can't [visualize] or understand. I'm getting a good grasp of everything from this perspective."
Both players, of course, are looking forward to next season. Murray pointed to the current newcomers.
"They've got 30-some games to get ready," Murray said. "They'll be more mature and ready. And me and Wanny will be ready to pick up where we left off."
"Aaric and I will add more experience," Staten said. "Experience makes a big difference. We'll add more scoring and I'll get my teammates involved.
"We'll be able to play faster next year. I'm a point guard that definitely pushes the ball."
For Murray, Staten, Huggins and Mountaineer fans, patience will be needed.
"Sometimes I get ahead of myself," Staten said. "I have to keep reminding myself this season is just getting started."
It's a season with the potential for stormy weather. But with Murray and Staten around, the long-term forecast calls for sunshine.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.