Huggins unleashes the 'no' heard 'round the state
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The conversation lasted around 30 seconds. WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins answered two questions with two words.
Yet the answers spoke volumes about the immediate course of the Mountaineer hoops team.
The first question had to do with the Mountain State's most recent high school player of the year, Martinsburg High's Donte Grantham.
It was a simple question: Are you still recruiting Grantham?
"No," said Huggins.
Rarely has a single word had such an impact within West Virginia basketball circles. What I heard: kaboom!
Grantham, a 6-foot-7 forward, lifted the 26-2 Bulldogs to the most recent Class AAA championship with 20 points and 17 rebounds in a victory over Woodrow Wilson.
He's had offers from Clemson, Marshall, James Madison, George Mason and Radford, among others, in addition to WVU. Yet he's always indicated a fondness for the Mountaineers. He's always indicated a fondness for Huggins' assistant Ron Everhart.
So when Grantham was offered a scholarship and visited Morgantown on April 2, one expected a commitment.
It never came. The national letter-of-intent signing day (April 16) came and went with no movement from Grantham.
Now, while the signing period technically lasts until May 21, WVU is moving on.
Leading to the second question I put to Huggins: Are you currently recruiting Remi Dibo?
"Yes," said the Mountaineer coach.
It appears he's more than recruiting Dibo. It appears he's the replacement for that scholarship.
As of midnight, Dibo had not signed a letter of intent, but it looks inevitable. It's expected to come today.
It's another attention-getting answer. See, if (when) WVU lands Dibo, Huggins will have an immediate impact player. He'll have a game-changer.
Dibo is a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward who played last season for the Casper [Wy.] College Thunderbirds. He averaged 18.2 points, connected on 41.9 percent of his 3-point attempts, nailed 82.7 percent of his free throws and averaged 4.9 rebounds.
The player is originally from Paris, France. The connection to WVU, though, is after playing his senior high school season at Stoneridge Prep in Simi Valley, Calif., he played as a senior at Mountain State Academy in Beckley.
Dibo gained national recognition there when the Falcons defeated No. 1 Oak Hill Academy in the ESPN Rise invitational.
Dibo's list of Division I suitors soared. He was even offered a scholarship by Kentucky's John Calipari.
By the time the forward made up his mind to become a Wildcat, however, Calipari pulled the offer and gave it to Terrance Jones, who had initially committed to Washington.
Landing Dibo would be very nice signing for Huggins. Schools like Oklahoma State, Clemson and Kansas State have been on him for a while.
"Guys that are Remi's size that can do the things he does on the court don't grow on trees," Casper coach Joel Davidson told the city's Star-Tribune back in December. "He's definitely a unique talent."
It'll be interesting to observe fallout for Huggins' decision to pull Grantham's offer.
No one, however, can say the coach didn't try. In fact, criticize Huggins where you will, but he's always paid particular attention to Mountain State players. He's signed Morgantown's Nathan Adrian. He signed Logan's Noah Cottrill. He has a commitment from 6-10 Liberty High center Levi Cook. When he first hit Morgantown, Huggins jumped in late and went after Huntington High's Patrick Patterson, who went to Kentucky. He's tried to recruit Huntington Prep's Andrew Wiggins, perhaps the nation's best player, with no luck.
Really, there are only a few state products one could even mildly criticize Huggins for missing. One is Ripley's Chase Fischer, who went to Wake Forest. His playing time, however, dipped from 26.1 minutes per game during his freshman season to 14.2 last season. He's transferring from the Demon Deacon program.
There's Pierria' Henry, the South Charleston product who did some nice things for Charlotte this past season. And perhaps - just perhaps - one could point to another South Charleston product: Aaron Dobson, the state player of the year in 2009. In case you missed it, Dobson was recently a second-round NFL draft pick of the New England Patriots. Pretty good athlete.
"That wasn't me [who missed on Dobson]," Huggins once said. "That was [former WVU assistant coach Steve] Dunlap."
And finally . . .
Here's a terrific trivia question for Mountain State sports fans: Can you name an all-state basketball team with members playing professionally in all three major U.S. sports?
The answer is the 2007 Class AAA all-state team. The first team had two NBA lottery picks in O.J. Mayo (now with the Dallas Mavericks) and Patterson (now with Sacramento).
Dobson is with the NFL Patriots. (OK, so not technically, but work with me. He'll be signing a contract any second now.)
The last? None other than San Diego Padre second baseman and ex-WVU standout Jedd Gyorko, who made the all-state hoops team playing for University High. (Could Gyorko, by the way, turn into the National League rookie of the year? He's batting .267 with three homers, including a rocket shot on Sunday.)
So there ya go.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.