CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Brandon Watkins might have redshirted this season if Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton were eligible, and he might have spent most of Saturday night’s game on the bench if Devin Williams had played with the usual zest.

But circumstances conspired to force Watkins into action, and West Virginia’s 6-foot-9 freshman delivered an eventful performance to become an unlikely choice for MVP of the Capital Classic.

“I really needed this game,” Watkins said after producing 12 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and two steals in a 74-64 win over Marshall. He made 5-of-6 shots in the second half and played a season-high 25 minutes, precisely 25 more than he played in Tuesday’s loss to No. 20 Gonzaga.

“I was really down after the Gonzaga game,” Watkins admitted. “I knew I needed to go hard in practice and get my mind right.”

Having struggled to execute offensive sets through his first 10 college games, Watkins foresaw not only a lack of playing time this season, but also daunting odds for the situation improving next season—when Macon and Holton presumably will join the active roster.

Said Watkins of a chat with assistant coach Erik Martin: “He talked to me and he let me know what’s up. He said, ‘If you really want to play, you’ve got to start playing now, because it’s an opportunity.'”

With fellow freshman Williams generating more turnovers (three) than shot attempts (two) against Marshall’s interior defense, Bob Huggins turned to Watkins. The NCAA’s 16th all-time winningest coach said Watkins had shown strides during the 72 hours since the DNP against Gonzaga.

“Brandon wasn’t playing very well and wasn’t into it very much, so I didn’t play him,” Huggins said. “I told him, ‘I’m not going to play you until you get with it,’ and he turns around and has two good days of practice.”

In the crucial final six minutes against Marshall, Watkins was active and aware—putting back a Juwan Staten miss and taking a pick-and-roll feed from the guard on a set the Mountaineers call “Louisville.” On the defensive end, Watkins disrupted a high ball-screen and scrapped for the loose ball before signalling timeout from the floor.

“His awareness on the court was great and he seemed to find the ball every time it came off the rim,” said Staten. “We wouldn’t have won this game without him.”

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  • justin

    how many big 12 games is this team gonna win? i say 1 or 2 and thats against TCU. still 2 years away in football and basketbally before we become contenders in the conference.

  • William101

    I was pleased to see WVU win this game once again. The crowd was approximately 11,000, which is a good thing. Glad that Watkins earned the right to play and took advantage. We'll need him as the season progresses. Huggs did a good job keeping the team together and winning in the end. We're 7-4, and with a good game vs. Purdue and W & M, we'll enter the new year at 9-4. Last year we garnered only 13 wins for the entire season.

  • William


    • justin

      william, who do you think the mountaineers should hire? (football and basketball;i know you hate holgerson too). i think everyone is interested in who you think can come in our fix our programs....

    • squad

      and your excuse is....

    • J the C

      drop dead William!

    • packy eers

      Uh, HUGGS = FINAL FOUR BABY; How long did it take? No modern day Jerry West is coming here. You are crazy and do not know anything important.

  • scott

    wow the typical knee jerk that keeps message boards in business!

  • Gandyman

    I don't know if the team could have been any worse the last couple years, even without his fouls and sweat.

  • steveb

    I thought i saw something from this kid that i liked prior to the MU game, but i don't see him practice like the coaches do. let's also remember that one game does not make a career. if he keeps the effort and practices hard, he'll be a contributor. And don't fprget Noreen has been exactly that, not a star but a contrinutor. i'd hate to have seen our team without him the last couple of years.

  • Gandyman

    I am just another fan who thinks he knows more than a Hall of Fame college basketball coach, but I cannot understand the thought process behind putting an 18 year old athlete in the "dog house" when the roster only goes 8 deep and the one of those 8 is Kevin Noreen. When Noreen is on the floor it is essentially 4 on 5. I get the old "sweat" moniker and I applaud his effort, nevertheless he has no business logging crucial minutes on the Division I level. He brings no scoring to the table, couple with the fact that he is undersized and overwhelmed defensively. Watkins got some PT and delivered, it wasn't earth shattering and it was against (in theory) an inferior opponent, but it was PRODUCTIVE. 12 points 11 rebounds 2 blocks and 2 steals! I would gladly take half of that stat line the rest of the season from a freshman with upside. Cultivate the talent that is present, stop with the old blood and guts mentality. We need athletes to compete against athletes. Starting 5; Staten, Harris, Henderson, Williams and Watkins. Reserves; Brown, Dibo, Adrian and Noreen when the need arises for an injection of hustle or a few solid screens... But what do I know?

  • Palmetto King

    I don't care if Bob Huggins has won 900 BB games. His coaching style leaves a lot to be desired. If I had a son who was a D-1 prospect, with Huggins at the helm, that would be the last place on my list. What other teacher do you see screaming in someone's face ever time they make a mistake. Now before you jump to conclusions, I played organized sports my entire life, but public humilation on national TV is different that screaming at a kid in practice. Screaming constantly has to play on these guys Psyche, which in-turn causes them to play on-edge of being tossed. Watch former coach John Belien and how he tries to show the players right from wrong.
    I've watched a few games this year and thought if Brandon Watkins can get a few more games under his belt he'd continue to improve. No....we've got Huggs playing 'your in the doghouse' crap and benching the kid. Sure would have been nice to have the entire team available during the Gonzaga game, especially since so many were in foul trouble. Come-on Man!

    • dh

      you just dont get it palmetto... you only see coach huggins during games interact with these dids... i hate to break it to you, but they LOVE him....

      Did you see Bob hug MU player Canty after the game? Obviously not...

    • Darren

      don't know if ou've been watching many games this year. Huggins has been more calm than usual. I get the sense he actually likes this team and is showing patience. Hugg's is right in saying that previously Watkins hadn't been showing up. Good to see him turn it around.

      • OKANYDAY

        Well, I disagree with your assumption about Huggy Bear being more calm this year than usual. I went to our game at VT, and Huggins did nothing but scream, yell, arms waving, and show his butt at that game. It got to a point I was embarrassed that I was wearing blue and old gold at that game, with his antics. Then down on the other end the VT coach was calmly coaching his team back to a win.

  • madhatter

    too bad this young man didn't get his redshirt.. it would allow him to grow both mentally and physically before being thrown to the wolves.
    i could see good things in him previously, so this doesn't surprise me , much , of his performance.
    keep in mind people,, marshall is a bad team and their leading scorer wasn't even there.
    So take what you want from this game,, the purdue game will show us a little more of what we have and need to do....
    Brandon, great game,, work hard, you're a player.

  • Ole Sasquatch

    Ole Sasquatch

    Number 1 priority for Hugg's and Coaching Staff - start immediately developing B. Watkins into a force under the basket both offensively and defensively, no matter what time it takes. Just like War on Baker, his uncle he has the tools to make us a much more diverse basketball team. Shot blocking and quick offensive moves under the basket. This priority deserves more emphasis than the work done on Joe Alexandra that Hugg's so often speaks of. Personal coaching time needs to be expended. Anyone involved in basketball can see this kid's potential! We need it ASAP. We cannot afford for him to develop slowly.

    December 11, 2013 at 12:03 pm
    Glad someone is listening.
    um hmm

  • derek

    don't understand why this kid don't don't play more. He rebounds boxes out plays the glass well. He goes after all the garbage and scores. Play him Huggs!!!!

  • 4WVUinKY

    Slight correction...this young man is a "likely" MVP both now and in the future. Excellent job Brandon! Stay focused, keep playing with passion and presence, and you will continue to play an important role with WVU. Congrats on an outstanding game.

  • Truthteller

    Congrats to the Mountaineers!!! They reached down inside and found a way to win!!!

    • Rock Solid

      Yea, but against a nobody! Now we go back to the big boy world. We'll see if the new more reserved Huggins is for real or an aberation.

  • Truthteller

    Congrats to the Mountaineers!!! These reached down inside and found a way to win!!!