Mountaineers host Fairmont State for exhibition tonight
MORGANTOWN - Bob Huggins goes into West Virginia's lone exhibition game of the preseason tonight interested in seeing whether his Mountaineers can shoot the basketball in a game as well as they seem to in practice.
That's not all he'll be watching, however.
"I'm going to watch Jerrod,'' Huggins said. "I've heard a lot about Jerrod on the bench. I don't want to miss any of it.''
Truth be told, of course, what Jerrod Calhoun does will be of little concern to Huggins or pretty much anyone else who shows up to watch West Virginia play an exhibition game against Fairmont State that tips off at 7 p.m. The game will be televised by Root Sports.
Yes, Calhoun is the second-year Fairmont coach who was on Huggins' staff at West Virginia before moving a few miles down the road. And if nothing else it will be a bit of a homecoming for the Cleveland native, who was WVU's director of basketball operations for four years and then served one season as an assistant coach before moving on.
But tonight's exhibition game is far more about West Virginia playing its first public game with a rebuilt roster after finishing last season 13-19. The Mountaineers have played an intra-squad scrimmage in front of fans and had a closed scrimmage just over a week ago at Ohio State, but this will be the first real game-like competition against an outside opponent.
It is also the last one prior to Friday night's regular-season opener at home against Mount St. Marys.
"Hopefully we make some shots,'' Huggins said. "I think we're extremely capable of making shots.''
That hasn't been the case, though, in those previous two scrimmage settings, when the Mountaineers were essentially horrid in shooting 3-pointers. But all teams go through shooting slumps and Huggins is anxious to see if those earlier performances were merely that.
There are other, more broad aspects Huggins wants to see, as well. With a roster that includes five returning players from last season but an almost entirely new group of frontcourt players, simply executing the system is probably at the top of the must-see list.
"We've got to run better offense, but I think everybody says that this time of the year,'' Huggins said. "And we've got to get better defensively. But again, it's that time of the year. Everybody says that.''
West Virginia will likely go into the game short-handed with just eight scholarship players, but that might be something that doesn't change much all season. There are just nine scholarship players who are eligible right now and one, junior college transfer Remi Dibo, is still recovering from minor knee surgery two weeks ago and likely won't play. The only other possible addition to tonight's eight-man core this season would be junior college forward Jonathan Holton, but only if he becomes eligible at some point.
Fairmont is coming off of a 23-9 season in Calhoun's first year, which was a dramatic improvement over the eight-win squad that he inherited. Former Mountaineer Joe Mazzulla is also now on the Fairmont staff.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1