KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At one end of the Sprint Center court, the media was stacked three-deep around four players from Kansas. Barely a jumpshot’s distance away sat the West Virginia contingent, rather lonely by comparison.
The Jayhawks, winners of eight consecutive Big 12 titles and co-favorites to snag No. 9 this season, always command a heightened level of attention. Though the Mountaineers are only four seasons removed from their own Final Four appearance, their newness to the league—not to mention last season’s 13-19 freefall—equates to C-list celebrity status for now.
The Big 12 coaches picked West Virginia seventh out of 10 teams in the preseason poll.
“As a competitor you don’t like seeing that,” said WVU sophomore guard Terry Henderson. “But when the season starts, hopefully we can get things rocking and show them a little something different.”
This week’s closed scrimmage against Ohio State could be a telling gauge, considering the Buckeyes are ranked 10th in the USA Today preseason coaches poll. Henderson believes the scrimmage—scheduled in lieu of a second exhibition game—will come at a valuable time for WVU.
“Just to see where we are as a team, and to see where I am—because I’ve got some stepping up to do,” he said.
Henderson scored 20 points or more three times last season, and did so against Michigan, Oklahoma and Kansas. But he averaged only 8 points per game, showing the need for more consistency.
“I like to compete,” he said, “and I know our team this year likes to compete way more than last year.”