Matt Humphrey, a senior transfer from Boston College, is among the newcomers for WVU this season. (All-Pro Photography)
Bob Huggins says Tuesday’s basketball exhibition against Glenville State is about “defining roles” — a crucial step preceding next week’s regular-season opener at No. 21 Gonzaga.
Though deeper and more skilled than last season, the Mountaineers must figure out how to mesh their collection of transfers and new recruits. Huggins warned not to read too much into WVU’s exhibition starting five, suggesting the lineup could be fluid throughout the daunting nonconference schedule.
EXHIBITION: Glenville State at West Virginia
WHERE/WHEN: WVU Coliseum, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
RADIO: The MSN broadcast on 101.9 FM in Morgantown
TV: Tape-delay on Roots, Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Senior forward Deniz Kilicli declined to even guess which players will take the court for Tuesday night’s tip-off against the Division II Pioneers.
“There’s a lot of people in many positions, and you never know who Huggs is going to put in,” Kilicli said. “He changes all the time.”
The supposition goes like this: Sophomore transfer Juwan Staten starting at point guard, sophomore Jabari Hines at shooting guard, Boston College transfer Matt Humphrey playing small forward, Kilicli at power forward and junior transfer Aaric Murray at center. Regardless of the lineup, Huggins and his players vow to push the tempo in search of easy baskets, aiming to avoid the five-on-five, half-court grind that typified last season’s offense.
“We’ll probably take more early shots than we took before,” Huggins said, “but we need to take quality shots and shots that you can rebound.”
After three-plus weeks of preseason practice, Huggins said the motion offense requires work — though he attributes some of the clunkiness to WVU’s defenders knowing only too well what to expect. In game situations, he expects the system to be as versatile as his personnel.
“There’s something for everybody — we can run pick-and-roll, we can backscreen, we can downscreen, we’ve got things for guys who are good at curling, and guys who are good at fading,” Huggins said.
Kilicli praised the motion offense for making potential scorers out of “people that can dribble and can’t dribble, can shoot and can’t shoot.” That would be a stark contrast to last season when too many possessions depended on Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant for bail-out baskets.
“You’ve got a bunch of options,” Kilicli said. “In one cut you’ve got five options you can do. If you get that right, which we did in the year we went to the Final Four, we won’t struggle on offense.”
Last season’s 77-74 exhibition loss to Division II Northern Kentucky remains so humiliating that Huggins hasn’t brought it up to his players.
“They know,” Huggins said.
West Virginia rallied from 16 points down in the second half only to lose on a 3-pointer by Northern Kentucky’s Eshaunte Jones with 1.1 seconds left.
“I didn’t see this coming,” Bryant said after the loss “I mean, losing to a D-II school, not to take anything away from them, that’s embarrassing.”
A Glenville State victory tonight would make for an even bigger shock, considering the Pioneers were picked 12th in the 15-team West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Huggins said he thinks 6-foot-10 Ukrainian newcomer Volodymyr Gerun will play in the exhibition. The August signee did not play in the Blue & Gold scrimmage at the Coliseum on Oct. 19 as WVU awaited approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
The 18-year-old Gerun subsequently was dealt a six-game, regular-season suspension by the NCAA for having appeared in three “professional” games in Europe last season. The sophomore will become eligible for the Dec. 8 game against Virginia Tech.