Mountaineers getting summer playing time in Pittsburgh pro-am league
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There's not much in the way of game-planning or organization and even less in terms of coaching, but there is still plenty of benefit from West Virginia's basketball players participating in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am Summer League.
"You play against the same guys every day, all summer [on campus],'' Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins said. "It just gives them an opportunity to go up there and [play against] Pitt's players and Duquesne's and Robert Morris. It gives them an opportunity to play against different guys with different skill sets.''
For the next three weeks, a collection of WVU players will participate in games at the Greentree Sportsplex. The games began Monday night and continue through July 17. There are six teams in the league that are made up primarily of players from Pitt, WVU, Duquesne and Robert Morris, along with others from smaller area colleges. There is also a team made up of former college players now playing in various professional leagues.
West Virginia's players are split among two teams, with Terry Henderson, Kevin Noreen and incoming freshmen Brandon Watkins and Nathan Adrian on one team and Eron Harris and freshmen Devin Williams and Elijah Macon listed on another. Walk-ons Chase Connors, Richard Romeo, Brett Morris and James Long are also playing.
While Macon is listed on one of the rosters, though, he's not yet eligible to compete. The league is sanctioned by the NCAA and players must be enrolled in order to participate. Macon has yet to enroll.
While being introduced to college competition is obviously good for the incoming freshmen, the summer league is also a time for veterans like Harris and Henderson to experiment. Both played last year as shooting guards for the Mountaineers, but Huggins would like to see both of them be able to play as point guards, too.
Harris did just that Monday night in his first summer league game and scored 14 points.
"We recruited him as a combo [guard] and we had a couple of guys last year that were primarily point guards, so we didn't play him all that much there,'' Huggins said of Harris, who wound up as the team's leading scorer in Big 12 play. "But I think he gives us another guy on the floor who can score. I think it's great to have a guy on the point who can score, and obviously Eron can do that.
"And he gives you length from a defensive standpoint, too. He gives you some athleticism at that position.''
The Mountaineers have two point guards returning in Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, but Harris provides far more in the way of an outside scoring threat than those two and is also a taller guard.
Perhaps just as significantly, the summer league provides an opportunity for both Harris and Henderson to develop some leadership skills. Both are just sophomores, but on a team that lost more than half its roster to graduation or transfer and will have new faces almost across the board, they now stand as two of the most experienced players.
"I think both of those guys understand that we lacked a little bit of veteran leadership a year ago,'' Huggins said. "And after all the minutes those guys played that year, they both feel like they're ready and willing and capable of leading.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.