New guards can help cure WVU shooting woes
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - If Eron Harris and Terry Henderson can shoot the basketball for West Virginia in 2012-13 as accurately as they can assess the 2011-12 team, perimeter scoring won't be a problem again.
The Mountaineers welcome the shooting guards this summer as part of the recruiting class and hope they improve the worst 3-point shooting in school history.
"To me, we were probably missing some perimeter scoring," Harris said. "We had great point guards. We had a great power forward in Kevin Jones. We had a great center. All we needed was a guy to fill a scoring spot on the wing. The point guards had to fill that role as wing scorers when, really, they should be facilitating."
WVU - in a 19-14 season - shot 29.8 percent as a team this past season from 3-point range, the school's worst percentage in the 25-year history of the 3-point line. That ranked tied for No. 322 (with Detroit) among the NCAA's 344 Division I teams.
No player was in the top 250 individually. Freshman Aaron Brown led the team at 39.1 percent, but he was part of a revolving group of players Coach Bob Huggins tried to use at the wing position.
Freshman Keaton Miles started 30 of 32 games and was benched for one. The 6-foot-6 Miles scored 46 points, shot just 31 percent from the floor and was 0-for-7 from 3-point range. He played just 13.1 minutes per game.
Freshman Gary Browne played all 33 games and started three times, including twice when Huggins went with three guards in the starting lineup. The 6-1 Browne played 25.6 minutes per game, but shot 24.4 percent from 3-point range (11-for-45) and played eight straight games late in the season without a make.
The 6-5 Brown played all but one game and got the start in the NCAA Tournament when Huggins opted for a new look. Brown was above 40 percent from 3-point range most of the season, but went 1-for-8 in the final six games.
WVU's trouble was not only 3-point shooting, but what that weakness did to the opponent's defense. Teams didn't worry about the Mountaineers beyond the arc and would drop back and crowd the lane to prevent drives and double Jones and Deniz Kilicli inside.
Henderson and Harris are supposed to help.
"I can really knock down the 3-point shot, especially if I'm open," Henderson said. "If it's open, I'm going to shoot it. It's going up. But if I see the defense coming out on me hard, I'm not going to shoot the ball because I'm not going to have a good shot. I've got a good pump fake and I'll get in the lane and look to dish and look for easy ways to help the team out."
Harris is 6-4 and 175 pounds and he said WVU's strength coach, Andy Kettler, wants Harris at about 200 pounds when practice starts in October. Henderson is 6-5 and 175 pounds and said Kettler also wants him around 200 pounds, but Henderson, a prolific high school scorer, has additional ideas.
"Hopefully I get there and when I start eating more and lifting more, I can grow another two inches and get to 6-7," he said. "That's the plan."
Henderson was a star at Neuse Baptist Christian School, in Raleigh, N.C., where he averaged 21.5 points per game as a senior and scored more than 3,300 points in his varsity career. Neuse won the past three North Carolina Christian Schools Association titles and was third this past season at the national tournament. Henderson was on the all-tournament team.
"I've seen some of his stuff on YouTube and this guy can really play," Harris said. "I've heard he can shoot and he can score, but I saw this one video and he's playing in Orlando (Fla.) and he took off in the middle of the lane and dunked on this guy and hung on the rim. I thought, 'Dang, this guy's got to be athletic.'"
Harris averaged 14 points this past season at Lawrence North, in Indianapolis. He said he had perhaps his worst season of basketball on a team that went 8-12 even though Lawrence North had "the most talented team in the state" in his estimation.
"He's a great shooter, and to tell the truth, he probably has more range than I do on his shot," Henderson said. "He goes out way farther than I do and he knocks down those shots."
Harris laughed, but he won't deny it.
"I don't remember the last time I shot a 3-pointer near the actual 3-point line," he said. "I usually take them around the NBA line or the college line. It's a habit."
The other player in the recruiting class is Elijah Macon, a 6-9, 240-pound forward playing at Huntington Prep, where he's working on his academics to make sure his GPA and test score satisfy the NCAA's requirements.
Macon had surgery last month to repair a broken left wrist and will be sidelined a while longer.
WVU returns Brown, Browne and fellow point guard Jabarie Hinds in the backcourt. Hinds started every game and averaged 7.4 points as a freshman. Macon would join seniors Kilicli and Dominique Rutledge up front. WVU also has Miles, sophomore Kevin Noreen and freshman Pat Forsythe back in the frontcourt. Noreen and Forsythe had this past season cut short by injuries.
Point guard Juwan Staten and center Aaric Murray will also be eligible after sitting out the past season after transferring to WVU.
"I feel like we'll have size and we'll have a lot of guards," Harris said. "We can be, most of the time, a three-guard team, but we could play big, too. I have no idea what we'll do, but I know we have a lot of players on the team who are versatile and Terry and I can help out with that because we can play a couple of different positions if we have to."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.