MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For fans attending Friday night’s Gold-Blue Debut scrimmage hoping to glean some intel on West Virginia’s upcoming basketball season, coach Bob Huggins offered a preview.
“We’re going to be more perimeter-oriented,” he said. “We’re probably going to be more like we were the first few years rather than after we got Deniz (Kilicli) and some of those inside guys.”
Huggins’ remarks hardly served as a spoiler, considering 6-foot-9 power forward Elijah Macon essentially has been ruled out for this season and 6-7 rebounding force Jonathan Holton could be facing a redshirt year as he deals with eligibility issues.
What’s left is a team heavy on guards, such as West Virgina’s top four returning scorers: Eron Harris (9.8 points), Terry Henderson (8.0), Juwan Staten (7.6) and Gary Browne (5.6). In addition, two 6-9 newcomers who are eligible—junior college signee Réme Dibo and Morgantown High graduate Nathan Adrian—are noted jumpshooters.
“I think the bulk of our scoring is going to come from the perimeter, whether it’s perimeter guys shooting shots out there or interior guys shooting shots out there,” Huggins said. “That’s what we’re good at.”
Not that WVU’s lineup will be built exclusively on outside gunners. Fans will want to pay attention to chiseled freshman forward Devin Williams. Another 6-9 newcomer, Brandon Watkins, is the nephew of former WVU great Warren Baker, and Huggins said Holton will play in the scrimmage despite the lingering eligibility questions.
Then there’s “Sweat”—aka Kevin Noreen, a 6-10 scrapper on the glass who sets screens like a left tackle.
The 40-minute scrimmage tips off at 7:30 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum. Afterward, fans can meet players on the court for an autograph session.
In lieu of a midnight madness-style event replete with dunking exhibitions and 3-point contests, Huggins said the scrimmage provides more benefits for fans and the team.
“We need to scrimmage,” he said. “With all those new guys, we’ve been doing so much teaching that we haven’t had an opportunity to run up and down (the floor).”
BROWNE AIMS TO REBOUND
Combo guard Gary Browne, one of six juniors on a roster that contains no seniors, seeks a bounce-back campaign after shooting just 32 percent overall and 20 percent from 3-point range last season. Even more troubling was his 48-to-42 assist-to-turnover ratio as WVU finished with a 13-19 record.
“I was kind of upset, kind of frustrated,” Browne said. “It was a personal thing, because I felt like I wasn’t helping my team like I know I can.”
A summer stint with the Puerto Rican national team helped reinvigorate the 6-1 Browne, who feels most comfortable at the point but can shift to shooting guard when he shares the backcourt with Staten.
“This whole summer, this whole year, is like a rebuilding year for me,” he said. “I’ve got a different mentality.”
Through three weeks of preseason practice, Huggins has lauded Adrian’s shot-making ability. But the lanky hometown kid wants the coach to notice his defense also.
“Defensively I’ve gotten better. He might not think it, but I have,” Adrian joked.
As is customary for freshmen, Adrian has been banished a few times to the dreaded treadmill, Huggins’ in-practice punishment for players who foul up.
“He expects a lot from us defensively,” Adrian said. “Coming from my high school, we didn’t focus that much on defense, so coming in here it’s a big change.”
Shady Spring High graduate Chase Connor, who led West Virginia Class AAA in scoring at 27 points per game last season, is among the four walk-ons (all guards) who could see action Friday night.
The others are junior Ty Hughes and sophomores James Long and Richard Romeo.
One invited walk-on no longer with the Mountaineers is 6-foot-4 guard Brett Morris of Webster County, who averaged 25.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists as a high school senior for one of the state’s top Class AA squads.
He played with WVU’s contingent in the Pittsburgh pro-am summer league, but shortly after enrolling in Morgantown, Morris transferred to Division II Glenville State, where he’s one of 10 newcomers on the roster under coach Stephen Dye.