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WVU basketball: European transplant learning US game

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The Coliseum was just quiet enough Sunday and Bob Huggins was just frustrated enough that the message was easy to hear on television, never mind the court.

"Remi!" the West Virginia coach yelled. "Would you rebound the ball?"

The way Huggins explained it later, he thought if junior college transfer Remi Dibo tried and succeeded, he might like the feeling and want to experience it again. Soon Dibo would have a new hobby that could maybe become a habit.  

To his credit, Dibo, who was in just his third game with the Mountaineers, politely answered, "Yes."

It's possible Dibo was startled by the sideline sarcasm or that he's new to the tactic and knew only to respond when asked a question. Or maybe Dibo can rebound and the 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward rejects the notion he's not capable.

"I definitely need to use my size," Dibo said. "Me being 6-7, 6-8, I've got to show I'm capable of going down and getting some rebounds because of my size. If I'm not able to do that, then just making shots isn't going to help me because everyone can make shots."

It's one of those things the newcomer is trying to sort out on the floor, a process that takes another turn tonight when the Mountaineers (2-1) play host to Georgia Southern (2-1) at 7 p.m. inside the Coliseum.

The game, which is the first in the Cancun Challenge, will be televised by Root Sports. WVU plays host to Presbyterian at 1:30 p.m. Saturday before playing two games in Cancun. The first is against Old Dominion Tuesday.

"He's not going to get seven or eight a game - he's not big enough," Huggins said of Dibo. "When we get into the league against some bigger guys, he's going to get knocked around."

Dibo spent much of his life in France and grew up playing the international style he thinks is so misunderstood. He knows Americans think international players, and particularly Europeans, are soft. Dibo, who his new teammates learned is a kick boxer and also has a yellow belt in karate, laughs at the fallacy.

"Since I've been here, that's all I've been hearing," he said. "That's why I'm smiling, because I'm definitely aware of that."

Dibo was born in the Ivory Coast and has dual citizenship in France, where he started playing internationally for the country's under-16 national team. He later played for Team Africa's under-18 team in the adidas Nations Camp and was offered a scholarship by many schools, including Kentucky, as part of the 2009-10 recruiting class.

"It's a different style of play, it's a different culture," he said. "You've got guys who bring the art of flopping. Guys will elbow you in the chest when the ref doesn't see you. They'll grab you and push you when it's not seen by the ref. It's a skill."

Dibo has 12 rebounds in his first three games, though only one is on offense. He's also fouled out of the past two games. The new defensive rules in Division I this season are proving to be a challenge for veterans and newcomers, but Dibo is also adjusting to the things Huggins asks of everyone, namely rebounding.

Dibo averaged 4.7 rebounds in his first season at Casper (Wyo.) College and 4.9 a year ago, but Casper was a solid rebounding team both seasons. The Thunderbirds were plus-8.6 in rebounding margin last year and averaged 14.4 offensive rebounds per game. They leaned on Dominique Lee, who averaged 7.1 rebounds per game.

"He grabbed everything," Dibo said.

Dibo's role was different. Nobody on the team took or made more shots and 3-pointers last season. His 1.2 offensive rebounds per game were barely better than what point guard Corey Spence averaged.

Spence is 5-9.

"It's something that in junior college I didn't really have to do as an everyday thing," Dibo said. "It was more that the other players on my team were there to rebound. It was more about me and the point guard creating plays. Here I know I've got to be more of a role player and go back to the boards a little more."

Dibo's at WVU to make 3-pointers, which he's so far done after a minor setback.

In the opener against Mount St. Mary's, his first game since surgery last month to repair torn meniscus in his left knee, he was 0-for-3 from 3-point range in 12 minutes. Four days later, he played 28 minutes and was 5-for-9 and scored 17 points. In Sunday's win against Duquesne, Dibo was 1-for-4 and scored five points in 21 minutes.

Dibo is fourth on the team in rebounding, but trails guards Juwan Staten (5.7) and Eron Harris (5.3), as well as freshman forward Devin Williams (7.3).

"He's got to consistently make shots to negate the fact he doesn't get rebounds," Huggins said. "The flip side is you hope he can go away from the basket and make shots to take his man away from the basket."

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

 


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