MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — A day after announcing three sophomores were transferring, West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins described the players as “great kids” and pledged assistance as they seek new schools.
On their way out are guards Jabarie Hinds and Aaron Brown, two heralded recruits from the 2011 signing class, and Ukrainian forward Volodymyr Gerun, who signed last August and barely saw action.
According to the NCAA, some 440 basketball players transferred before last season, representing about 10 percent of the scholarship slots in Division I. Current NCAA trends show a whopping 40 percent of D-I men’s players are changing schools by the end of their sophomore years.
“I transferred and had a great experience here,” said Huggins, who graduated from WVU in 1977 after beginning his college career at Ohio. “People act like it’s a terrible thing to transfer, but those same people were probably sitting in the stands cheering like crazy for Mike Gansey,” the guard who helped WVU to the 2005 Elite Eight after transferring from St. Bonaventure.
In evaluating transfers, it’s common for programs to talk with coaches at the player’s previous school. According to Huggins, he’ll give all three departures positive recommendations: “They’re great kids, and I’ve always said that. We told each of them we’d help them in any way we can.”
Brown played in all 33 games as a freshman, but only 17 as a sophomore, averaging about six minutes per outing and 1.2 points. Gerun was suspended for his first six games by the NCAA and eventually appeared in only seven contests.
“We’ve got two guys who want more playing time, and that’s admirable,” Huggins said.
Hinds, on the other hand, was a regular, starting 59 of 65 games in two years at WVU. But he suffered through a season-long shooting slump as a sophomore when he averaged 7.4 points.
“Honestly, we didn’t have much of a conversation,” Huggins said. “I like Jabarie very much, and Jabarie and I have a very good relationship. But after a year like we had, I think if any of them don’t have both feet in, they probably do need to move. It’s going to take a heck of a lot of work and commitment to get this back to where we all want it to be.”
Clyde Jones, Brown’s former coach at Penn Wood High School in Lansdowne, Pa., said the three-star recruit was puzzled as to why his playing time dipped this past season.
“It was frustrating because for whatever reason — and Aaron still doesn’t know what that reason was — he fell out of favor,” Jones said. “I would call and check on him to make sure he was still practicing hard and doing things right in the classroom, but he still never got any reason why he wasn’t playing.
“We don’t understand what happened and why he got so deep in the doghouse. As a coach, if you can’t tell a kid why he’s not playing even though he’s working hard and earning his keep, then he just must not be in your plans anymore. Or your plans changed on the fly.”
In an interview with his hometown newspaper, Brown said “I don’t know what happened’ regarding his diminished playing time.
“I went from starting an NCAA Tournament game (as a freshman) to not playing,” Brown told the Delaware County Times. “I had a thumb (injury) that kept me out of a few games. But coming back from that, I was thrown for a loop with why I didn’t play.
“Sitting out was brand new to me. I wouldn’t say it was a bad situation, but I’m used to playing.”
Jones said the news of the transfer was only minutes old when multiple schools began inquiring about Brown, who was on pace to graduate with a degree in sports management in three years. Coming out of high school, Brown chose WVU over Temple, Florida, La Salle, Rutgers and St. Joseph’s.
“At 11 o’clock (Monday) morning, my phone started ringing,” Jones said. “Schools were calling from all the way out West to the Philadelphia area.
“Aaron’s going to be fine. He’s going to land on his feet.”
Jones said this wouldn’t necessarily sour future Penn Wood High players from considering WVU, but added, “I just hope Aaron takes some time to look around and find coaches who have his best interest at heart and aren’t just giving lip service.”
Huggins told MetroNews Tuesday he did not foresee any other players leaving, suspending speculation that junior center Aaric Murray and sophomore forward Keaton Miles would transfer.