With the 2011-2012 Mountaineer basketball season now completely in the books, the focus shifts to the offseason and what the team needs to do heading into what should be an exciting year of newness in the Big 12.
Head coach Bob Huggins has already announced the departure of freshman Tommie McCune – that was made official prior to West Virginia even leaving for the NCAA tournament. But as for any other potential departures, Huggins said there won’t be anymore.
“The first thing we want to do is end the rumors that this guy’s going here, that guy’s leaving and this guy is going to do this – none of that’s happening,” Huggins said. “They’re all there, they’re all excited, they’re all onboard, they’re all looking forward to the rest of the week, next week off and then getting back to work.”
With three new recruits coming in for next season and McCune’s departure, West Virginia has its scholarship limit maxed out. And as for the guys returning from this past year’s team, Huggins wants to see them stress their overall physical endurance over the next several months.
“I think we have guys that are capable of running,” Huggins said. “They are going to get stronger – I don’t know how much bigger really we need them to get other than maybe Keaton (Miles). We do need them to increase their endurance and really work on running the floor. I think if we run the floor, we’re going to put so much pressure on the basket and we’re going to do some transition things that we did in the past that I think this group can do.”
Obviously a lot of hype next year will surround the debuts of transfers Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray who both had to sit out this past year, but were able to go through practice.
Murray, however, was limited to only about a half of the year in practice after he broke his wrist – he is good to go now moving forward.
“He’s going to be able to get in the weight room and lift – he needs to lift,” Huggins said. “Aaric and Keaton are the two guys we need to have a great summer in the weight room. And they need to run and be in great shape, because if they’re not in great shape, we’re going to have to continue to take them out of the game.”
Staten will give Huggins a true point guard that should be able to drive the ball inside the lane.
“Our guys kept saying (in practice) ‘he’s so fast, he’s so hard to guard,’” Huggins said. “He’s a guy who has great speed, quickness and bounce. I think with him, Jabarie (Hinds) and Gary (Browne), we’re going to be able to push the ball up the floor pretty well.”
Hinds and Browne, meanwhile, are a couple of players Huggins expects to see take a significant jump in production level next year.
“A lot of those guys are going to be different because they’ve already gone through the ‘what does Coach want me to do,’” Huggins said. “They want to do right – they’re good kids, but they almost want to do right too much and they forget to play. I think next year you’ll see an entirely different team.”
As for the upcoming schedule for next year, there’s one spot open – a spot Huggins hopes to fill with a solid nonconference matchup.
“We’re working on what we think will be a really exciting home game that we’re going to be able to play here in Morgantown – hopefully. We’re getting close to completing that,” Huggins said. “From a name standpoint and BCS schools standpoint, I think we’re going to have more of those on the schedule than we did this year – we’re excited about it.”
The Mountaineers, of course, have already announced a nonconference matchup against Michigan in December from New York.