WVU basketball: Huggins hopes exhibition provides answers for Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Bob Huggins has been molding his fifth basketball team at West Virginia since practice began Oct. 13.
There was an intrasquad scrimmage at the Coliseum a week later and then a scrimmage against Xavier last week.
Yet every bit of that comes after a NCAA rule let Huggins coach his team throughout the summer for two hours a day and eight hours a week, meaning it would seem tonight's 7 p.m. exhibition against Glenville State is something of a dress rehearsal at the Coliseum before the season begins Nov. 12 at Gonzaga.
Yet Huggins wants to walk away from the event with answers to questions he still has about this team that he hopes looks and acts unlike others before it at WVU.
"We want to play faster, which means that we're going to probably take maybe more early shots than what we took before, but we still have to take quality shots," Huggins said. "We still have to take shots that we have a chance to rebound. We're still working through that."
The 2012-13 team has more backcourt players than other teams Huggins has had at WVU as well as shooters he thinks will improve greatly on last season's school-record low 3-point shooting percentage.
There are also big bodies under the basket to rebound the misses on defense to start offense and the misses on offense to extend possessions.
What Huggins doesn't have just yet is a marriage of all his ideas.
"Sometimes I think when you say you're going to play fast, you get in a half-court situation when it's five-on-five. Well, five-on-five is really when you have to take quality shots," he said.
"You have to take shots you can rebound. We've had a hard time differentiating between the two. We've burped up too many quality shots that we haven't had a chance to rebound, which means they weren't quality shots."
Huggins couldn't name a starting lineup, though he said Juwan Staten, a sophomore transfer from Dayton, would start at point guard, sophomore Jabarie Hinds would start at shooting guard and senior Deniz Kilicli would start at forward. Huggins said the rest is unknown because the team has an array of players with fairly even ability.
Huggins can play sophomore Gary Browne at either spot in the backcourt. Freshmen Terry Henderson and Eron Harris and senior Matt Humphreys, a transfer from Boston College, are shooting guards. Sophomores Aaron Brown and Keaton Miles have played well at small forward. Junior Kevin Noreen, senior Dominique Rutledge and junior Aaric Murray, a transfer from La Salle, give Huggins numbers at forward and center.
Sophomore Volodymyr Gerun, a 6-foot-10 forward from Ukraine, could play tonight despite his six-game NCAA suspension to start the regular season.
"I hope we have the luxury to play 10 or 12 guys, so what we've talked to them about is to play as hard as you can for as long as you can, then come out, get your rest and I'll put you back in," Huggins said. "If you don't play as hard as I think you ought to play, I'll take you out and not put you back in."
Huggins said the point guards will be responsible for getting WVU into offense after made and missed shots by the opponent, but that each does something different to help the attack.
Huggins said Hinds, who had never played point guard before last season, has shot the ball the best of the three and that he and Staten use their quickness to get past defenders and into the open floor or to the basket. Browne is a more powerful player who tends to use his shoulders and his body to get to the basket, which Huggins likened to former point guard Joe Mazzulla, who is a Glenville State assistant. Staten makes the best decisions in the open floor.
"We're going to throw the ball to one of them and tell him to push it as had and as fast as he can up the floor," Huggins said.
The starting lineups don't matter as much to Huggins, who said he could end up changing them from time to time so that the Mountaineers match up with opponents. There are some things he needs to monitor, though, no matter who is on the floor.
"In all honesty, I think the intelligent thing to do is have Kevin Noreen or Deniz on the floor at all times because they have a better background and they know what I want to do," Huggins said. "If we have one of those guys out there, I have somebody I can talk to who knows what I'm talking about. That doesn't mean we can't play them together, but in all likelihood, when one of them comes out, the other one needs to be on the floor."
The scrimmage comes at a good time for WVU because Huggins said practices have nearly stagnated. The defense knows what the offense is doing, which has helped the defense come along at a rate that pleases Huggins, while the offense is not yet where he wants it to be.
As is the case with all of his teams, Huggins seeks to solve the offensive inefficiencies by reinforcing the need for his players to identify and focus on their strengths while avoiding the temptation of weaknesses.
"We're still in the process of defining roles," he said. "We've got guys who if they dribble are going to turn it over. That probably translates into don't dribble. The reason I think that the stuff we run is so good is because there's something for everyone.
"We can pick-and-roll. We can back-screen. We can down-screen. We can cross-screen. We've got guys who are good at curling. We've got guys who are good at fading. The whole battle is getting them doing what they're good at instead of doing things they can't do."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.