Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

Eron Harris averaged 17 points per game as a sophomore, fifth-best in the Big 12. But his defense and ballhandling need sharpening—as does his ability to embrace being a marked man by opponents.

 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — What a wickedly warped season that was for the West Virginia basketball team. One marked by tantalizing losses early, fragile fade-aways late and a flurry of hope-spawning moments in the middle. It tanked and spiked and ultimately tanked again, with credits rolling to the bellows of “Hoya Saxa.”

The accumulation of all that? Try 17-16. One game over .500. One-and-done in the NIT. Not one of Bob Huggins’ best teams, though certainly a rung up from the 2013 squad that was undeniably his worst. I don’t know if he “fixed it” as much as he duct-taped it to a point where it wasn’t leaking lethargy like last year.

The Mountaineers finished 6-12 against teams in the NCAA tournament field. Not earth-moving but four of those wins came against teams seeded No. 2, No. 3, No. 5 and No. 6.

It was a season made hard to categorize because of obvious roster deficiencies, though these deficiencies involved players who were recognized gambles from the moment they signed. (More on the Amazing Ineligible Duo of Holton and Macon below.) On occasion, Huggins maximized the nine scholarship players he carried. In other games he couldn’t get guys properly aligned out of a timeout.

Those moments of perplexity made Huggins question whether certain players were buying in, just as it simultaneously made us question how he was selling it to them. Somewhere between the sender and receiver, the messages must have turned to static. Will next year’s team be more receptive?

There are many questions concerning the 2014-15 Mountaineers. Let’s boil it down to the first four:

1. Does Juwan Staten stay?
If the Wannie Rocket returns, West Virginia should be an NCAA tournament team. If he doesn’t, the point guard job falls to senior Gary Browne or incoming freshmen Jevon Carter and Daxter Smiles (each of whom spent this season primarily playing shooting guard). That’s not just a drop-off—it’s a New River Gorge-type drop-off.

It’s hard to fathom Staten playing much better than he did this season, but after the NIT loss he said he’d be disappointed if he didn’t show similar gains next season.

Whether he could become a first-round draft pick isn’t immediately clear, which is why he’ll petition feedback from NBA general managers. Two things working against him are height (he’s listed at 6-1, but isn’t) and shooting range. The latter is something he can enhance during the offseason in hopes of making his dribble-drive game that much more dangerous. But for all his reluctance to shoot 3s, Staten wound up making 6-of-15 for 40 percent.

2. How much will Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon contribute?
The wait-til-next-year refrain regarding Holton and Macon only grew louder every time West Virginia was outscored in the paint. Yet carping on their absences was foolhardy given that their eligibilities were a gamble from the jump. When Huggins’ staff signed two guys with a mix of academic craters and legal baggage, there was a chance neither would see the court this season.

The risk may yet pay off, but we won’t find out until next fall. And even then, Macon inability to practice this season puts him a marked disadvantage. Will he be capable of sliding into the rotation and wielding an impact, or must he undergo the same bumpy initiation this season’s first-year players did? (And what his entry means for rising sophomore Brandon Watkins will be worth following. A Year 2 redshirt perhaps?)

Holton, with two years’ actual college playing experience as well as a season of Huggins’ practices behind him, must contribute big as a shot-challenger and rebounder.

Until they actually see either player taking the court, fans are forgiven for being leery. But recall that back in January, Huggins beamed over both players making the fall-semester dean’s list (Macon in general studies, Holton in sociology and anthropology).

3. What to make of Harristotle, version 3.0
Watching Eron Harris light up Kansas (28 points), Oklahoma (28 points) and Baylor (32 points), you sensed a clutch shot-maker coming of age. Watching him disappear twice against Texas (three and six points) and at Oklahoma (five points) revealed that his climb from anonymity to Big 12 top-five scorer takes some adjustments.

Cast as a role player in high school, Harris wasn’t the kind of prospect recruiters charter since eighth grade.

“My freshman year I played on the freshman team, and my sophomore year I played on the JV and I got moved up to varsity for one game,” he said. “I wasn’t too confident, but I was trying to find my way. I was trying to find what my game was, how athletic I was, what was my niche specialty. Everybody else was getting ranked, everybody else was getting recruited, but I really wasn’t.”

And in that respect he’s still learning and occasionally failing to handle the attention teams with extensive scouting reports apply to him.

“I have never been that guy. And now that there’s a suggestion that I am the guy, or that I could be one of the guys, it’s crazy for me mentally.”

Along those lines of keeping his head straight, try deconstructing this recent postgame answer to a question about having a bounce-back performance:

“Sometimes my dad has to remind me that it’s not as big as I make it sometimes. When you don’t succeed all the time—when you get down on yourself, and you think that the world’s over and I’m not a good basketball player and I’m not getting as much hype as this other guy, my team isn’t winning—I’m not worth anything. Sometimes you think that.

“I do care (about winning) and I’m a competitive person, and sometimes I get angry when we lose. But you can’t be angry forever. You’ve got to snap back it in.”

4. How to rid the defensive demons?
While adding two long-armed forwards like Holton and Macon should help, their mere presence won’t remedy all the problems of defensive intensity, execution and commitment.

“The core of our program has got to be those guys that are sitting in that locker room,” Huggins said post-Georgetown. “They’ve got to set the tone. They’ve got to be the people who make that commitment to being special.

“It’s about being special. Why not aspire to be special? And I think we’ve got some guys who will. I really do. I think they’ll put the time in. But I can’t do it. I didn’t do it for any of those other guys I’ve had. They did.”

Staten made that commitment last offseason and became an conference player of the year candidate and All-Defensive Big 12 selection. He needs teammates like Remi Dibo and, yes, Harris to guard better.

“It basically boils down to the same thing, and that’s defense,” Staten said Tuesday night. “That’s something we’ve done a poor job of all year, and that’s something that ultimately came back to bite us in the end.”

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Comments

  • billy allport

    My opinion on the Huggins coaching situation is he is the coach we need here, he cares about the University and is doing the best he can do short of making shots and playing defense his self. There is practically no chance of WV getting any of the so called 5 star recuits they will always go to the Kentuckys, Carolinas, Jayhawks, Dukes and so on. Maybe an occasional 4 star will land here and mite even have a little baggage. Just look guys Cottrell wanted to be a Mountaineers and what happened to him, Hargett blew up, Murray was supposed to be special and was a bust here, gotta play both ends of the floor. Doesnt help at all if you score 16 and give up 20 hmmmmm. I truly believe myself things are on the upside now and will improve. By the way how many of you truthfully will admit what you thought of Staten last year.

  • Aaron S.

    Barry, you claim all my comments are in defense of Huggins but that's simply not true. There were a couple regarding Levi Cook and a conversation regarding alcohol at WVU games.

    I believe Cook is a "project" worth undertaking and I have no problem with alcohol sales in the stadium.

    Hatter, or whatever moniker he posted under on Cook thinks he's a wasted recruit (that's the impression I got) and Bill seems to think that WVU and alcohol did not become synonymous until Luck pushed through beer sales in the stadium.

    You got a response to Curry and Nyarsuk yet?

    • Barry

      I am not denying that Huggins had some bad luck on a few players. Do you not think that other programs have bad luck too? The difference is good coaches don't go 49-49 over the next three years because they had a little bad luck. I just find that theory implausible at best, and it is just a theory. Once again, Murray might have been bad luck (even though I think anyone recruiting him knew he had baggage), but doesn't that say a lot about the recruiter. Huggins continues to take risks on kids like Murray and Macon, but why? My theory is, he wants guys who have no where else to go. That way he can yell and scream and cuss, put them on the tread mill and put them down during press conferences and they have to take it. There is no doubt in my mind that Staten would have transfered last year, but he did not want to sit out another year. Look at what Harris just did. I mean, not every kid misses there family and has to go home at other universities. How many times have we heard that excuse? The fact is, we have had a tremendous amount of transfers. It is clear there is a problem in this program.

      By the way I have agreed with you that we have had good recruits. I agree that we have had a few bad breaks, but that doesn't account for what has happened to WVU basketball.

      • Barry

        As to your defense of Huggins, lets just say that 90% of your comments are defending him or Luck, you have to counter every anti-Huggins comment, and you dominate the comment board.

  • huggiebear

    From what I can see from the NCAA tourney, if WVU would have been selected, they would have easily made it to the sweet 16.
    Oh wait.......Sorry I had a dream.

  • Barry

    Aaron,

    If you are so smart (as you claim to be). Then, why do you spend all of your time defending Oliver Luck and Bob Huggins? I have seen you mention my name several times over numerous articles/weeks. Here is the deal. I have a life. I work 40 hours plus a week and am trying to build a house. I do not have time to obsess over WVU basketball. I don't like Bob Huggins and never will. I do not like the way he treats the players or represents the state. This site was a way to vent my frustrations. That being said, I do not have time to post 40 plus times on one irrelevant article (although well written). I can't understand why you spend all of this time and effort defending these guys. You have accussed others of being obsessed, but you are by far the most obsessed person who posts comments on this site. I think that you need help. You commented that your son was a psychology major. Assuming that is true maybe you should get some help from him or someone he knows.

    In short, enjoy life. You don't have to defend against every anti-Huggins comment. Surely there are better things for you to do.

    • Aaron

      Argue either against or for this statement “Slaves and free blacks created a political quandary for Lincoln and his administration, one in which emancipation was the only viable answer...in essence, Lincoln did not free the slaves, they freed themselves.” [feel free to play devil’s advocate for the sake of conversation]

      From the onset Lincoln’s run for Presidency, despite his House Divided speech, the one thing he never truly set out to do was to end the peculiar institution of slavery. While he believed the institution to be morally wrong, he was by no means an abolitionist. In 1854,

      Thanks for the concern Larr...errrr Barry but I do enjoy life. I find it ironic that so many of you (or is there so many) comment on my comments yet you claim that you pay no attention to me, yet you (all or few) know how much I comment.

      I wouldn't say I'm obsessed as much as I just really like proving you guys (I'll go with it) wrong. The difference between you all is that so many comments are made out of a biased hatred for Bob Huggins/Oliver Luck/WVU and as such, you have to stretch the truth, fabricate facts and partake in revisionist history.

      I on the other hand merely have to rely on the facts. That sprinkled with a modicum of common sense and intelligence and it’s easy to debunk the comments from the anti-WVU crowd of which you are a member.

      Or is it the member?

      Anyway, thanks for the concern. I do appreciate the following.

      • Aaron

        My apologizes, seems I merged two documents. Disregard the comments related to President Lincoln.

        • Barry

          Haha, I wondered why I was reading about Lincoln.

          First of all, I am just Barry. Second, I enjoy reading your comments. I disagree with most comments that pertain to Bob Huggins, but do agree with numerous others. That being said, I don't understand why you feel the need to defend on EVERY anti-Huggins comment, or the fact that you and Mad Hatter dominate the comments. It seems that you both have an agenda, and for both of your sakes I hope that you are getting paid. If not then I think your time, talents, ect. could be used elsewhere. I would hope that you would agree that 30 plus comments (all of which defend Oliver Luck or Bob Huggins) on one article is a little absurd.

          • Barry

            On Murray, see above comment.

            I am sorry you can't eleborate on what you know, and I understand, but you can't expect me or any other WVU fan to believe Huggins is a great guy because you heard he was yet can't elaborate. As I stated in the past, all I can go by is what I see, and I see him being a bully and a jerk. Not only that, all you have to do is search "Huggins drunk" and see what comes up. So with all due respect, I will stick with the stories that I do know.

          • Aaron

            This is not the forum to discuss stuff that while I am certain is true, has not been made public.


            I am curious though, what are your thoughts on Arric Murray. I posted a link to a story from USA Today.

            If ever a player was, as William or Hater would say, was thrown under the bus, it was him. Why do you suppose he's never publicly talked about his time at WVU including his dismissal from the team?

          • Barry

            Well written. Before I reply on what you wrote, I would first like to say that I appreciate the dialog. Other than a few classless comments (of which I am also guilty) your posts are well thought out and enjoyable to read. That being said I believe we are both biased. As I stated before Goeers/Steve has posted some hate filled crap that was just as bad as anything William or Hatter said and you did not say anything to him. So, lets quit pretending than you are better than me or I am better than you. Now, as far as William is concerned, I chose to ignore him. If I agreed with a comment of his then I agreed with the comment and not him as a whole. If you recall, I have agreed with you on more than one occasion. Furthermore, you and others have tried to have dialog with him and it doesn't work, so why even try. As I stated previously, I post comments to vent about Huggins and quite frankly you are the only one on here worth talking to. I have tried talking to others, but just get labeled a Marshall troll or personally attacked. I am sure you recall things like Moma's basement and welfare being used alot.

            Now, as far as my feeling toward Huggins. Maybe you could elaborate on "I do know of specific actions from specific situations within the program and based on that knowledge, my perception of Coach Huggins changed." I would like to hear the details.

          • Aaron

            As we have established and as you reiterate here, you have an agenda when it comes to Bob Huggins. You do not like him as you have stated several times. You base that opinion on peripheral observations.

            When he was hired, I argued with another individual saying he was the wrong hire. My opinion was based on peripheral images of what occurred at Cincinnati. Since then and while I've never met the man, I do know of specific actions from specific situations within the program and based on that knowledge, my perception of Coach Huggins changed. I told you this all before and you accused me of being a paid writer for the program.

            That’s what you do. You want to try and have a conversation but when you cannot control the conversation, you cry and make accusations. Yes, I have called you Larry but then, given that there are so many similar post using different monikers by just a few individuals, why shouldn’t I think you’re part of that mess. As I pointed out in our other conversation along these lines, if you are who you say you are, why wouldn’t you call Hatter, William, Larry and the others on what is clearly garbage when they post it and you had no response. Instead, you agreed with a ludicrous comment made under the moniker William. If you truly are a West Virginia fan as you say, you by no means would support post made under the moniker William as that individual is clearly not a WVU fan and clearly has issues.

            As to Huggins, you say I defend him relentlessly. My defense comes in the form in that I believe he is doing what is best for the program and while I would like to see better results, I am sure no one is harder on Coach Huggins than Coach Huggins. Not only that, I don’t believe there is anything I could say that decision makers at WVU do not already know to be true. While posters want to assess blame, they have already assessed the situation and know far more about it than me, you or any of the other rubes posting tripe.

            My comments on here are nothing more than a bored old man debunking the ignorance of individual who clearly do not like WVU/Oliver Luck and/or Bob Huggins. Look at I’m defending. Multiple post have been made that Huggins cannot recruit but that myth had been debunked numerous times. He’s brought in 4 star recruits. You cannot deny that. Jabarie Hinds was a top 100 ESPN player, a top 20 guard nationally and had over 20 D-1 schools, many with multiple national championships, recruiting him. He chose WV over all of them. Tell me how Coach Huggins is responsible for Hinds not living up to his billing?

            Until you can answer that question, or explain how he is responsible for Darrious Curry and David Nyarsuk, all you are doing is posting your personal opinion, which by your own admissions is clearly clouded. If me countering ignorant or incorrect statements regarding Huggins, Luck and/or WVU is ‘relentless defending’ then I guess I’m guilty.


            Now this is where you accuse me of being a paid writer for the school and/or Huggins, right.

          • Barry

            Isn't it funny that over your last comments you; accuse me of being Larry, post some stuff about Lincoln (accidentally), add nothing to the conversation, then act like my response is somehow lacking. Go back and read our discussion. You have tried numerous times to divert the topic that you have the need to defend Huggins relentlessly.

            I don't disput your information, but I totally disagree with your conclussions. Bob Huggins is an individual that I do not like or support, as I have explained in the past. The last three years have been a train wreck and Bob Huggins must take a lion's share of the blame. Not unless you think the last three years have been acceptable. Is that what you think?

          • Aaron

            When you have nothing else, that is your response Barry.

            My post are out there. Show me which one's are inaccurate.

            If you can.

          • Barry

            Ok Shawn, oh I mean Aaron. How can you not believe that your are defending Huggins when that is all that your comments are about? And by the way, it is almost as believable that you "accidentally" merged two documents as it is that three missed recruits in 2010 caused a .500 winning percentage in the last three years. Good try though.

          • Aaron

            The only thing that is absurd is that instead of posting under one moniker, Larry feels the need to try and prove his point under so many?

            And in all honesty, I do not believe I am defending Huggins. Can you find one of my post that are untruthful or inaccurate?

  • wvufaninpa

    Well folks you can talk about this program until you're blue in the face. Nothing is going to change until Huggins changes. And guess what? That ain't happenin!

  • rekterx

    Guys, guys, guys. Critiquing recruiting is an easy place to start. But if you want to analyze the downward trend of WVU basketball you need to start with our last NCAA team.

    While that team had an overall resume' good enough for the NCAA's that year it essentially collapsed the last 1/3-1/4 of the regular season and it's inefficient play on the court at the end of the year was the harbinger of what has happened since.

    Go back and review those games at the end of that season and start your analysis there.

  • rekterx

    5) Will there be other transfers that keep this program in a "recovery" mode?

  • wvajoker

    Aaron, well said, by someone with intelligence and insight.

  • Phil M.

    Coach Huggins said that the core of the program starts with the guys sitting in the locker room. Okay, I'll give him that and if that is the case, then it really starts with the guys he's recruitting and putting in the locker room.

    If said it for two years, if you recruit character and smarts then the rest can be taught. That's the key difference between a John Belein team and a Bob Huggins team.

  • GottarecruitlikeDuke

    Daxter Miles looks awesome but won't be coming next year. Another great recruit who can't make grades. He will be going juco route. If staten goes now we will be in trouble. If Miles was coming we may have weathered the storm if staten left. We gotta go after the two white boy system duke zags and all these teams employee. The ones that hit 3 s all day long. I could deal with one starting one on the bench. So they don't play d who cares if there hitting 7 of 10 from 3s a game. One starter one on the bench. 4 guys who should play d and one who rarely does in my book is ok. He is going to guard the other teams goofy white kid that always destroys us with open 3 s. That's what kills us and that's what we need the goofy white kid always alone behind the three we never guard on our team. If you have to do what the big schools do like Florida and Kansas and duke, you'll dip into that 4 mil a year coach salary and pay. If you don't believe they do it then your wrong. Duke messed up and showed there hand when a player threw down 50 to 100k in New York at a jewelry shop a couple years back. You want to play with the big boys you gotta recruit like them. And when recruiting it helps to always look at a kids grades

    • Aaron

      So you're saying that Duke, Florida and Gonzaga all pay players to come to their institutions, half of which are sharp shooting white boys and the West Virginia has to do that in order to compete.

      Interesting.

  • wvufaninpa

    Aaron, you can spin it anyway you want. Just look at the attendance. It's hasn't been this low for several years. The fans tell the story.
    Remember, you can put lipstick on a pig and it's still a pig.

    • Aaron

      And if the win 25 ball games next year, are ranked in the top half of the conference, will you change your tune and give Coach the credit he is due?

      Or are you one of these posters who clearly has an agenda against Huggins/Luck/WVU?

      • Billy

        I have been a WVU fan since the Bucky Waters-Wil Robinson era. What I do not like about the above mentioned luck is what he has done to WVU athletics since he has been here. And like it or not I am not in the minority, you are. I saw where Michigan voted not to sell beer in the big house. They are showing class. They did not want to take away from the family atmosphere. Alcohol bring sold at WVU games just adds to the drunken hillbilly stereotype.

        • Aaron

          Years ago, I went with an army buddy to the Big House to tailgate. We couldn't get tickets because it was sold out but he said we didn't need to.

          We sat in the parking lot with about 30,000 other 'fan' and everyone got hammered. The only thing more prevalent than the booze in the parking lot was the booze being taken into the game and the fans constantly in and out to drink.

          I saw the same situation at WVU until they started selling beer in the games and stopped allowing re-entry.

          You can say attendance is down because of alcohol sells in the stadium and you may be right but thus far, there is no conclusive evidence of that being the case. That is your opinion and you are entitled to it.

          I don't believe that to be the case but will stipulate that my opinion is that ticket sells are down because the programs have been down and WV is supported by a large percentage of far weather fans.

          • Aaron

            How can you claim to have been a fan of WV since the "Bucky Waters-Will Robinson" and blame Oliver Luck for alcohol at WVU games?

          • Billy

            Everything anyone complains about you try to justify Luck position. Just wait until some drunk leaving the game wrecks and kills another or a family. Then WVU will be sued.

  • Mike

    Huggins has been a great coach. He won big at Cincy and he won big at WVU the first few years. He hasn't won the last 3 years. The question is what he does from here on. If a .500 team is all he produces, how many more years does he get? 4, 5? 6 or 7? He may reach the Final Four again, or he may not have much success at all. We'll see. But he shouldn't get a free future ride, with unlimited years, just because his name is Huggins and he's won in the past.

    • wvufaninpa

      Good post Mike.

  • wvufaninpa

    Aaron, I wish I had you for a boss. You seem to be ok with the fact that the basketball program has produced mediocre results over the past 3 years even though the school is paying millions in salaries.
    What flavor is the coolaid?
    It's obvious that Huggs doesn't have an answer to the slide in the program because his recruits are not living up to what he supposedly is seeing in them while in high school. It's also obvious he can't recruit upper echelon players.

    • Aaron

      Cherry.

      What flavor is yours?

    • Mike

      Good post. And accurate.

  • Billy

    Aaron has posted 27 times on this one story. I was just wondering if he gets paid by the post or by the word. He has to be associated with the team. Most of the people I talk to would disagree with him. I wonder if he is getting paid under the table or if he is paying taxes on his earnings.

    • Hop'sHip

      Billy, Are you getting paid to count Aaron's postings? How can I get a piece of this action. I can take either side. I just want paid.

      • Billy

        I answered one of those work at home if you have a computer adds on tv. Aaron needs to put at the end of his post: this message was paid for by the i love bob club, Arron VP.

        • Aaron

          Would you believe Billy that when WVU hired Bob Huggins I wrote a piece that explained why it was a bad hire?

          I love a good hamburger and nothing beats a twisty, curvy road on two wheels. I love my kids, my fiancee and I admit, I do love WVU.

          I'm do not love Bob Huggins. I recognize that he is a good basketball coach and I recognize and respect the work he has done for West Virginia which includes graduating 100% of his kids in the latest NCAA report.

          I do not love his salary but then, when I spoke out about coaching salaries on the story that introduced Tom Bradley as an assistant, I was lambasted by the posters, many of who cite Huggins excessive salary as a reason for him to do more.

          I am also smart enough to look at his recruits and compare them to what was coming in before he got here and see that his are more talented basketball players.

          The thing is, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that. Go to WV Basketball recruiting at rivals and see for yourself. Look at Coach Huggins first year and compare it to the previous years and see which kids are rated higher. If you do, you will see that all the comments about how he cannot recruit are bunk.

          • Aaron

            I will say thought that I do appreciate the thoughts. Enjoy the rest of your day.

          • Aaron

            No one is paying me anything. And if you don't like what I think or write, then don't read it and by all means, do not respond.

            It really is that simple Billy.

          • Billy

            Aaron
            Did you ever think that people on here posting their opinion could care less about what you think and what your opinion is? Who is paying you to dominate every discussion?

    • Aaron

      30 now. I just got my bonus.

    • Aaron

      space

    • Mike

      LOL !

  • Southern WV Mtneer. Fan

    Aaron,

    Danny Jennings left the bench area in the middle of a game a few years ago, and never came back. I heard Huggins say this himself in a press conference. You do make some good points about how kids may or may not handle adversity well. Maybe the coaches should do more homework about players personalities and attitudes when recruiting and take kids that are more mentally tough. Talent is important, but if they don't have a good attitude or their head isn't on straight, they will struggle (i.e. Aaric Murray).

    • Aaron

      As to Murray, he had issues that he worked out at the John Lucas Center in Houston, located a few blocks from Texas Southern.

    • Aaron

      How do you tell who's mentally tough and who isn't?

      Jennings just completed his college career at Long Beach State.