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WVU basketball: Murray leaves WVU by way of ‘mutual agreement’

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - During an offseason that seems to get longer the closer it moves to its conclusion, Bob Huggins has seen three players graduate and four more transfer from the 2012-13 roster.

Monday witnessed a new term for an eighth exit. Huggins revealed senior center Aaric Murray has "departed" the program after graduating in May, but failing to make it through the offseason program. Murray is eligible to play at any level this fall.

"We came to a mutual agreement that it would be in his best interest to finish his collegiate career somewhere else," Huggins said in a brief university statement.

Reached later, Huggins declined to elaborate, but maintained that the Mountaineers are properly situated to survive the loss of the 24-year-old Murray. He was third on the team in scoring last season (8.8 points per game) and led WVU in rebounding (5.9), blocks (47) and field-goal percentage (48.1).

"We signed six guys who are over 6-foot-7, so I think we're OK," Huggins said.

Only three - freshmen Nathan Adrian, Devin Williams and Brandon Watkins - are on campus. Junior college transfers Jonathan Holton and Remi Dibo and freshman Elijah Macon have not arrived. Holton and Macon have eligibility issues to settle before they can enroll.

"Those three are going to be fine, I think," Huggins said.

Two years ago, the 6-10 Murray transferred to WVU from La Salle, where he averaged 12.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game as a freshman and then 15.1 points and 7.7 rebounds a year later. He attended a high school for "court referred" youths in Philadelphia after reported persistent truancy in middle school and two years in the eighth grade.

Upon arriving at WVU, Murray was arrested back home for marijuana possession. He also broke his hand during the season and had back problems that kept him from making progress on the court as he sat out as a transfer. Murray played 31 of 32 games last season, starting only 11 times and averaging 20 minutes. Huggins left Murray on campus when the Mountaineers played eventual national runner-up Michigan in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Huggins agreed to bring Murray back for the upcoming season and Murray at least seemed receptive to making the specific personal and basketball improvements he needed to warrant the gesture.

"I definitely learned games aren't won during game day," he said in March. "They're won during the offseason. I wasn't working as hard as I should have been."

The Mountaineers at least have options to fill Murray's place and productivity, but Huggins said using the newcomers isn't merely a matter of necessity.

"I'm not sure they weren't going to figure in before this," Huggins said. "One thing we lacked a year ago was some consistency. I think what those guys bring in is consistency and work ethic every day. At least you can play them and know what you're going to get. We haven't necessarily had that."

The 6-7, 215-pound Holton averaged 17.5 points and led all of junior college with 14.1 rebounds per game last year at Florida's Palm Beach State College. He also shot 39.6 percent from 3-point range. The 6-9, 230-pound Dibo wasn't much of a rebounder, but was second-team All-America at Casper (Wyo.) College. Dibo averaged 18.2 points and shot 41.9 percent from 3-point range last season.

The 6-8, 220-pound Adrian, the 6-9, 225-pound Watkins and the 6-8, 250-pound Williams are all slightly different from one another.

"Devin was going to be if not the best rebounder, then the second-best rebounder, regardless of who was here and who wasn't here," Huggins said. "I think the phrase now is Nathan is a stretch 4 (power forward). He's a pick-and-pop guy. Brandon is more of a guy who needs to fly around to block shots, rebound the ball and run like crazy - he can run."

Huggins could have eight new players in the fall. In addition to the six signed players, WVU has a commitment from Baltimore point guard Daxter Miles, though there are questions about how valid that commitment is and whether Miles will ever qualify. Murray's departure creates another spot, but Huggins said he won't sign someone late "who's not going to fit in with what we're going to do. We went through that experiment and it failed."

Whether it's six, seven or eight, it's still a large number of players, though not as many as he added in 1993, when Cincinnati made the Final Four. The nature of the changes might not be as dramatic as they were in 2000, when Kenyon Martin became the nation's best player while Pete Mickeal accepted a sidekick role, sophomore Steve Logan understood his All-America honors would be waiting for him and coveted freshmen DerMarr Johnson, Kenny Satterfield and Leonard Stokes did what they were asked.

"I think in every situation, no matter the amount of returning guys or what, it's about guys who are willing to accentuate the positives and stay away from their negatives," Huggins said. "When you're good, guys do that. When you're not good, guys don't do that."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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