Jabarie Hinds (left) contributed 23 points and five steals, while Juwan Staten had 14 points and eight assists in the Gold-Blue scrimmage Friday night. (Photo by Joe Sadlek/All-Pro Sports)
Bob Huggins sure sounded facetious after Friday night’s Gold-Blue scrimmage, won 94-80 by the Gold: “If you see us run our offense with nobody guarding us, we’re pretty good.”
Only he wasn’t being snarky. The West Virginia basketball coach actually was complimenting his team on its offensive growth since we lost saw WVU getting bounced from the NCAA tournament in March.
“We weren’t any good last year running our offense against no defense because nobody knew what they were doing,” he said.
For weeks, Huggins has flaunted his optimism over this season’s team, and the hometown hero did it once more during pregame introductions Friday. Handed a mic at center court, Huggins made reference to Big 12 coaches picking WVU sixth in the league. When the crowd of approximately 4,000 booed, Huggins grinned and replied, “That’s what I thought, too.”
While the 40-minute scrimmage produced one standout you’d expect — senior forward Deniz KiIicli contributing 26 points, nine rebounds and two blocks — it was the West Virginia guards who seemed to impress Huggins.
— Jabarie Hinds, returning after starting every game as a freshman, scored 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He also collected seven rebounds, five steals and three assists, while committing two turnovers.
— Sophomore transfer Juwan Staten, the point guard less than three weeks removed from meniscus surgery, finished with eight assists and only one turnover for the Blue squad while scoring 14 points.
— Sophomore Gary Browne also finished with 8 assists, adding 11 points for the Gold team.
— Matt Humphrey, the 6-foot-5 senior transfer from Boston College, scored 23 points as a member of the Blue squad.
— Sophomore guard Aaron Brown scored 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
— Two freshmen guards, Terry Henderson and Eron Harris, scored 15 and 14 points respectively, on combined 12-of-22 shooting for the Blue.
“I think our guards have got a chance to be pretty good,” Huggins beamed. “When you think three of them have three years left and two of them have four years left, they can do some things.”
Required to sit out last season after leaving Dayton for WVU, Staten was eager to take the Coliseum floor even though his left knee wasn’t fully recovered. He wound up playing 36 minutes and provided one of the night’s best highlights on an alley-oop dunk feed to Henderson.
“I’m not 100 percent, but I’m getting better every day and I’m good enough to play,” Staten said. “It’s been on my mind a lot, but I just tried to play through it. It’s the first time the team has been seen by the public, so I didn’t want to miss that.”
The overall shooting numbers were encouraging, as the Gold squad shot 50 percent from the floor, while Blue connected at 47.7 percent. But they combined to hoist 39 shots from 3-point range and made only 12 — a disappointing percentage Huggins attributed to shooters trying to manufacture too many jumpers for themselves.
“The people that are good at shooting 3s, they don’t have guys shooting off the dribble,” Huggins said. “You have guys dribbling, don’t get me wrong, but they’re dribbling to get other guys 3s. They’re not dribbling to get themselves 3s.”
Humphrey, whose court presence and shooting stroke drew frequent praise from Huggins during the offseason, finished just 2-for-8 on 3s. “He tried to manufacture shots today and that’s not his game,” Huggins said. “He shouldn’t have to with our guards’ ability to penetrate.”
The matchup to watch inside was Kilicli against 6-10 junior Aaric Murray, now eligible after transferring last year from LaSalle. Though Murray had a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double, he also committed six turnovers and eight fouls in 31 minutes.
In a development that warrants watching, 6-foot-10 Ukrainian import Volodymyr Gerun sat out the scrimmage as WVU awaits eligibility approval from the NCAA clearinghouse. (According to the sports-information staff, Gerun also has been held out of official practices so far.) The sophomore, whom Huggins called “the best shooter out of the five (big men)” on the roster, watched the action from the bench in a sweat suit before joining the players for postgame autographs.
“We’re just waiting on (the NCAA’s) decision,” Huggins said. “That’s the reason he’s not playing.”
Fans won’t get another opportunity to see the Mountaineers until the Nov. 6 exhibition against Glenville State. WVU’s regular season begins Nov. 12 at Gonzaga.