IF YOU want to get WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins fired up, ask him about the 18-page plan that circulated among Big Ten leadership this past week that could've given commissioner Jim Delaney authority to punish schools to the point of firing coaches."What buffoons," Huggins said. "If I was a president I'd consider that a slap in the face. That's saying you can't run your own institution."(Since the initial report, the Big Ten has stepped back. Officials there say the commissioner won't have such authority.)If, however, you want to get Huggins to smile, ask him about the NCAA legislation that allowed hoops coaches to spend two hours per week training and practicing players as long as the players are enrolled in summer school.It's a rule that's helped programs with team unity. It's a rule that helps players understand schemes. And it has to help a tad in keeping control in a time when players seem to get in trouble. (See football players, NFL.)"I think it's good," Huggins said. "It's probably not as important for us this year as it would have been a year ago, but it's great for freshmen."WVU only has two freshmen this year - Terry Henderson and Eron Harris - because Elijah Macon of Huntington Prep was forced to go to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.
But it has to be beneficial for the Mountaineers. Not only are there the two freshmen, but senior transfer Matt Humphrey from Boston College. And although transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten were able to practice last season, the team picture is now complete. (Huggins said he probably won't fill the scholarship opening before the season begins.)"We go an hour working on individual stuff - transition stuff is in there too - and an hour on team stuff," Huggins said. "Generally, it's on a Monday or Tuesday. But it depends on classes and other things."If you're unaware, WVU's players also participate in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro Am Summer League at the Greentree Sportsplex in Pittsburgh. ("That finished at the beginning of this past week," Huggins said. "From all reports our players did real well.")In that summer league, though, players from college teams are broken up and scattered. In Morgantown, Huggins' Mountaineers work together.
"We're going to attempt to run faster and transition this year," Huggins said. "We're going to try and transition into secondary things. But two hours a week isn't a lot."Every bit helps, though, for a program trying to regain its swagger. Huggins somehow willed last season's team into the NCAA tournament, giving the program five straight trips.It was quite an achievement, considering the youth, outside shooting woes and questionable decision making.The Mountaineers, however, should be contenders this coming season in the Big 12. Despite the loss of Kevin Jones, who led the Big East in both scoring and rebounding, the presence of big man Murray (6-foot-10), the speed of Juwan Staten and the experience of Humphrey should bolster the team. Then there's the overall experience gained.
"Our returning guys are a lot better," Huggins said. "They're more relaxed and comfortable. They're not thinking as much. And, honestly, the practice facility is doing wonders. They are spending more time there on their own."As for the freshmen, both are athletic and both can make shots. Both are going to be really good players."It will be interesting to see how Murray and returning senior Deniz Kilicli interact. It will be interesting to see the starting lineup. Will Huggins start Murray, Kilicli, Staten, Jabari Hinds and Humphrey? The coach can go big with 6-5 Humphrey, 6-6 Keaton Miles and 6-5 Aaron Brown at small forward or he can go with three guards and insert Gary Browne.The new rule, anyway, will help Huggins and his staff figure it out.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.