WVU basketball: Recruits should fit in with Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's men's basketball team just finished a season in which it compiled the school's worst 3-point shooting percentage since the shot was instituted in college before the 1986-87 season.
Never had the Mountaineers done worse than this 29.6 percent. No regular made 40 percent of his shots, and no one was in the top 250 nationally. The team was No. 275 out of the 336 teams the NCAA ranks in that category.
And so WVU, perhaps seeing this problem from far away, or anticipating what life after Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones graduate, recruited a pair of sharp shooting guards.
Terry Henderson and Eron Harris, high school seniors who are weeks away from their proms and months away from hitting WVU's campus, should fit in well beginning next fall.
That's especially true for Harris and it has nothing to do with his perimeter shooting.
He played for Lawrence North in Indianapolis, the same program that produced Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr., who won state titles in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and Eric Montross before them, who won a state title in 1989.
It's an honor to play for the Wildcats, but it can be as much of a burden as it is a privilege to be the next part of the program.
"My school does have that good tradition, but the last four years haven't been so good for us," Harris said.
Lawrence North went 8-12 during his senior season, which was as stunning as it was disappointing.
"We had the most talented team in the state, by far, and we were under .500," he said. "We don't know what the answer was for that. Maybe we weren't playing hard enough. Maybe we weren't doing this or that.
"I know I was being a leader on and off the court and trying my hardest every game, but for that to be the outcome makes me so much more motivated going forward now."
If that is Harris' mindset next season, it will be the best thing he'll bring to the team.
Forget that he knocks down jumpers like Pete Weber knocks down bowling pins. He already has.
"This year was arguably my worst year in high school," the 6 foot, 4 inch Harris said. "It was everyone's worst year. I'm not going to lie. I shot about 35 percent from 3 this year, which wasn't what I planned. I didn't average what I thought I would. I was good at the free-throw line. I shot about 85 percent. But all the other things bother me."
Harris averaged 14 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game and played a variety of positions, but listen to him talk about his senior season and you envision a freshman whose thinking and motivations will be in line with his new teammates next season.
The Mountaineers were a young and inexperienced team, often times to a fault, this past season. Yet there they were after 20 games, a 15-5 record in one hand as the other knocked on the door of the Top 25.
Then it all came unraveled, slowly, but surely, with a 4-9 finish and an embarrassing loss in the NCAA Tournament.
The weight of the struggles rested largely on the shoulders of juniors and freshmen, all who came to realize their responsibility before they figured out how to handle it.
They're all back next season, unless they choose to change that, and Harris joins that group who's bummed out about what could, and probably should, have been.
"I feel like everything happens for a reason and you can learn from anything bad that happens, so I'll take that and improve on it, but it still bothered me," he said.
"It bothered me because I put in so much hard work to get to my senior year and finally get a chance to lead the team. Us having that type of season and me not being able to do anything about it, that bothers me a lot."
And that's the thing about Harris. He cares, but only about the right things, the things that matter, the things he can address.
Harris, for example, committed to a Big East school. He'll play for a Big 12 school. He hardly flinched.
"My people back home will still see me on TV," he said.
He committed before Terry Henderson, the second shooting guard in the three-player class. Harris didn't pout. He didn't decommit and head to another school, like Ryan Boatright before him.
Boatright committed to WVU in October 2010 and then changed his mind after Jabarie Hinds committed. Both were point guards and Boatright said he didn't feel comfortable with the arrangement, a decision that preceded his switch to Connecticut, where he averaged 10 points per game this past season.
"You never know," Harris said. "Terry and I could be on the court together a lot, maybe even next year."
If not, no worries. Harris said he'll come in and work for his spot, whatever Bob Huggins decides it will be, and he'll then help make sure neither he nor the Mountaineers experience another disappointment.
"The deeper we are, the better, because it's really not about me," he said. "I'm getting a free education. I get to play basketball, which I love to do, so the bottom line is regardless of how many people are at my position I'm going to get playing time because I earned it. We're all working toward the same goal, even if we have different roles."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.