"A good defender in high school?" Mazzulla repeated. "No. In high school (in Rhode Island), I refused to play defense. But you've got to be honest with yourself and assess your game. With Huggs, I wasn't going to survive trying to be a scorer, or something else I really wasn't.
"So, I thought one way to win him over was going back to my roots and trying to be the toughest guy on the floor. That's something most big-time scorers don't bring to every team. It was where I could make a difference."
Thoroughman said he and Mazzulla talked Wednesday morning on their drive from Morgantown to South Charleston about their kinship as the final Mountaineers from that 2006-07 recruiting class.
"It's been a great run," Thoroughman said. "We've been to a Final Four. We won an NIT championship (2007), been to another (NCAA) Sweet Sixteen (2008), won a Big East tournament championship (2010). We're both here because we want to play, and we want to win. In a lot of ways, we're the same kind of guys.
"I thought for maybe a minute about (leaving the program after graduating), but then Joe and I have always been here for each other. I think we both kind of looked at it as wanting to finish the job.
"They were coming off Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteens (under Beilein, before the NIT title year)," Thoroughman said. "When our group came in, we thought we could keep it going, but to follow through and actually do the things we have, it makes it all worth it.
"Things changed when Huggs got there. We didn't know what to think, but right away he started talking about winning a national championship, so I think we looked on our chances to get to a Final Four as even greater."
Huggins' early words to a young team he inherited brought a change that "just goes to show how much teenagers, trying to become men, are a product of their environment," Mazzulla said. "The fan support in this state, the way they feel about Huggs, the way they adopt (out-of-state players), it's just the epitome of what you would want. How can you not want to play hard?"
Mazzulla said his surgically repaired left shoulder is "getting stronger, and I think we're much smarter, less aggressive, about the rehab this year than last year, when I was anxious, or had a lot of anxiety about wanting to get back out there in a hurry. It's a lot less aggressive, and it's good."
Then, there's another side as the pair approach their final season. Mazzulla and Thoroughman know the Mountaineers' run to Indianapolis and the national semifinals has stoked a fire in plenty of West Virginia natives - especially one that counts most to them.
"Actually, I'm a little bit scared about the (upcoming) season," Mazzulla said. "Well, not scared, but something like that. We've set a new barometer for ourselves and other teams coming in, and I think we've given Huggs even more of a reason to yell at us.
"We didn't have the talent of some other teams, and we made the Final Four because we played hard and played together and trusted, and we have less (talent) this year. But Huggs is going to expect more out of us because of what we did, and practice is going to be even worse."
Something tells me two survivors know how to deal with it.
Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at ja...@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949.