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Depth still strength as ‘Press Virginia’ opens preseason practice

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins isn’t planning on scrapping “Press Virginia” any time soon.

While there is a need to develop some stability at the guard positions, the West Virginia basketball coach will open preseason practice Saturday thinking the Mountaineers’ team strength will be in its depth.

That include walk-ons Logan Routt — Huggins said the 6-foot-11 forward gave up his scholarship from last season so West Virginia could recruit other players — and former Fairmont Senior standout Taevon Horton. Huggins said it might be realistic to use 15 players in some games.

That means players will come into games in waves, keeping guys fresh to run and press in WVU’s defensive style.

“I think we’re going to play pretty much the same way we’ve been playing,” Huggins said during a press conference Wednesday. “Our strength is our numbers. We’ve got 15 guys. We can throw a lot of people out there, I think.”

That’s the thinking for the regular season. The start of preseason practice will be different, because the Mountaineers are battling through some health issues.

“We’ve been so banged up,” Huggins said. “I’ve never had in all my years this many guys banged up. It’s a good thing we got all 15 guys.”

Among the worst may be guards “Beetle” Bolden, who stretched some ligaments in his hand — “It was swollen,” Huggins said. “It looked like a baseball was sitting on it.” — and Chase Harler, who is dealing with back issues.

“They did some tests on him,” Huggins said. “He’s going to be out for a while. That’s about all they can do with it.”

Lamont West is still recovering from offseason wrist surgery and Brandon Knapper was recently cleared to practice after blood-clot issues, but Huggins said both players are fine.

Incoming junior-college recruit Andrew Gordon sat out last season at Northwest Florida State College with a knee injury and is still working on getting back to full health and junior forward Sagaba Konate has also been dealing with a minor knee injury that Huggins said has limited him in workouts.

Freshmen guard Trey Doomes is also recovering from a bout with strep throat and a minor ankle injury.

Scheduling matters

For the fist time since the 2012-13 season, the Mountaineers won’t begin Big 12 play with two consecutive road games while school is still out on winter break.

That forces WVU to travel nine times into the Central Time Zone instead of eight for conference play, something Huggins has continually requested from Big 12 schedule makers.

“I think I’d have a much better chance of convincing my peers than the schedule makers,” Huggins said. Big 12 coaches, “talk about how hard it is to come one time to Morgantown. Here we are going nine time out there. It’s rough.

“What’s so hard about it? Not to mention the missed class time. We get back at 4 a.m. after some games and then you have an 8 a.m. class. That’s hard.”

Huggins believes TV dictates too much of how games are scheduled.

“I know what it is,” he  said. “It’s TV telling [the Big 12] who they want to play and when. At some point in time, you have to stand up and say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that to our kids.’ ”

Haley is versatile

Listed at 6-foot-7, junior college recruit Jermaine Haley stands head and shoulders above all other WVU guards.

He also might be one of the most versatile.

“We can put him on the ball or on the wing,” Huggins said. “His skill level is good. He needs to get a little tougher. He wants to play bad enough. He’s a talented guy and he’s got size and length.”

WVU’s next tallest guard is Doomes and Harler, at 6-3, and Bolden, Jordan McCabe and Brandon Knapper are listed at 6-0.

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