MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - For the most part, fan events like the one West Virginia's basketball team is holding tonight at the Coliseum are pretty much just for show.When Bob Huggins trots his new team out tonight, though, it will be a chance to do something that the first few weeks of practice haven't afforded."We haven't run up and down at all,'' Huggins said.And so the Mountaineers will do that. A 7:30 p.m. event at the Coliseum - it's officially called the Gold-Blue Debut presented by Coke Zero - will include an introduction of the team, a speech by Huggins and an autograph session. But more significantly it will include a 40-minute officiated scrimmage.
"We need to scrimmage,'' Huggins said. "It's just that with all those new guys we're doing so much teaching that we haven't had a chance to run up and down. But we've got to start, obviously.''Indeed, since practice began late last month, Huggins and his staff have spent an inordinate amount of time simply teaching. That comes with having a roster that includes just five returning players, six newcomers and four walk-ons.Tonight will not only be the first opportunity for fans to see the likes of newcomers Nathan Adrian, Remi Debo, Brandon Watkins and Devin Williams, it will also be one of the first opportunities for Huggins to see them in live action.For instance, in addition to all the teaching, players like returning guards Eron Harris and Terry Henderson have seldom played together so far in practice. The same goes for point guards Juwan Staten and Gary Browne."The way we get the most out of them right now is to play them against each other,'' Huggins said. "It keeps them competitive.''Everyone on the roster is expected to play with the exception of freshman Elijah Macon, who is both injured and an academic question mark. Jonathan Holton, a junior college newcomer, will play even though his eligibility for the season remains in doubt.Huggins also said it will be an opportunity for many - actually most - of his players to play in the Coliseum with some fans watching."And we scrimmage next weekend [at Ohio State], so we'll have to have some semblance of continuity,'' Huggins said.As much as anything, though, the event is simply a chance for fans to get a first glimpse at the team."It's a good opportunity for fans to come out and see the new guys,'' Huggins said. "They should be able to get in and out of the parking lot great.''Huggins was being facetious. While the Coliseum parking lots will be open, the basketball event comes on a Friday night before a Saturday home football game, so much of the lot will be filled with RVs. Fox Sports is also conducting a fan event there tonight and there is also a women's soccer home game. And at least part of the available parking won't be opened until two hours before the basketball scrimmage while the school's band practices there.
Huggins said his players were looking forward to the event, especially given that most have never taken part in it and don't know what to expect."They came up to me [this week] and said they wanted to do a dunk contest,'' Huggins said. "I don't think they realize we're practicing two hours before we scrimmage.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.