By Kyle Lovern
May 12, 2014
If you read my column on a regular basis, there is no doubt I’m a huge fan of WVU sports, especially the basketball program.
I’m a big fan of basketball head Coach Bob Huggins. Lately Huggins has been under fire because of the number of players that have transferred out of Morgantown.
Huggins held a short press conference over the weekend after his latest player transferred. If you haven’t heard, shooting guard Terry Henderson has decided to leave the Mountaineer program. This follows the departure of Eron Harris. Henderson and Harris would have been juniors next season and were two of the team’s leading scorers with a solid 3-point range.
There is another rumor that reserve Remi Dibo may also leave. Dibo came off the bench to give WVU another scoring threat. He had transferred in via the JUCO route.
Huggins insists the moves facing WVU basketball are “not nearly as alarming as has been portrayed by some people.”
He stated that he was also a transfer back in the early 1970s, leaving Ohio University and heading back to Morgantown to play at WVU. He said transfers are becoming commonplace in NCAA sports, especially basketball.
During the press conference on Saturday, Huggins defended his coaching style, which many believe is “old school.” It’s no secret that Huggins’ practices are tough, with treadmills lined up along the court as a detriment for not trying well in practice.
Huggins said his program is still in good shape and predicted that next season’s team would be just fine.
Henderson averaged 11.7 points as a sophomore and was slotted to be a key player in next season’s lineup. Harris averaged 17 points per game. However, sometimes they were benched for not playing defense.
Huggins’ last two teams have not done well in the post season. Last year they lost in the first round of the NIT. The year before they did not make it to the NCAA or NIT tourneys, after reaching the NCAA tournament for five straight years.
Many fans feel the projections for making next year’s NCAA tourney are not as great since the departures of the two guards.
Henderson became the 12th signee to transfer out of WVU since the 2010 Final Four appearance.
“I just wish when you throw figures out there, that you throw accurate figures,” Huggins said of the numbers. “We’ve signed 23 guys since the Final Four; we haven’t signed 16. We’ve signed 23. So that 12 of 16 numbers are not accurate, it’s 12 of 23.”
Huggins stressed that for the second straight year, that more than 500 Division I players are transferring.
“It’s not just here. It happens everywhere,” Huggins said. “It’s kind of the times.”
Huggins contested the impression that players are leaving because of a divide with the coaching staff.
“You’ve never heard any of these guys say they didn’t have a relationship with the coaching staff,” Huggins said in the press conference.
The closest the coach came toward sounding testy Saturday occurred when a columnist questioned a perceived slip in recruiting.
“We’ve been in postseason six of the seven years I’ve been here. Five consecutive (NCAA bids)—tied for the most in school history. A Final Four, the second in school history,” Huggins said.
Huggins declined to reveal Henderson’s reason for leaving, and said “I’m not going to get into personal stuff.”
Last season WVU was weak on the low post. This year two quality big men will suit up in the blue and gold in Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton.
All-Big 12 point guard Juwan Staten, who will be a conference player of the year candidate, will lead the team at point guard. Huggins has also recruited two freshmen guards and a JUCO transfer that are highly touted.
“The reality is we have five new guys coming in that I think are pretty good,” Huggins said. “And don’t forget, we’ve got probably the leader for the Big 12 player of the year coming back and he’s going to have the ball in his hands.”
So, I for one will not pass judgment on Huggins just yet. Let’s see how this next season turns out.
Many fans are ready to criticize a coach and dwell on the negative. They have a tendency to think “what have you done for me lately?”
Well, Huggins has been a successful coach for many years. He is a WVU alumnus and loves the Mountain State where he was born.
He helped raise millions for a $28 million practice facility for the program.
Don’t pass judgment until we see how things play out.
I’m backing Coach Huggins. I hope many true blue WVU fans will too.
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 33 or Twitter @KyleLovern)