Excitement over West Virginia newcomers reminds of 2011’s cautionary tale

COMMENTARY

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It would be great to tell you this West Virginia men’s basketball recruiting class is the second coming.

In all honesty, there are a lot of signs pointing in that direction, from Jordan McCabe’s celebrity as a kid to Jermaine Haley’s size as a 6-foot-7 guard.

Fans have been anticipating Derek Culver’s arrival for two years, and Emmitt Matthews Jr. and Trey Doomes seem to have a lot of positive vibes about them.

To be sure, they are young and talented; each of them with a set of strengths that could help this WVU program.

But, the Mountaineers have been in this position before and there is much to be learned from that 2011 recruiting class that was, at one time at least, billed as something special, too.

There was a lot of hype surrounding that class, which came in off the heels of the Mountaineers’ 2010 Final Four run.

That 2011 class had seven newcomers — the 2018 class has six — and it contained a couple of point guards, some shooters and a couple of guys with some size who were going to be the backbone of the Mountaineers’ next run to the Final Four.

Or, at least we thought.

Four years later, Gary Browne was the only player from that class still on the roster.

So to believe that all six current players are going to develop into great players who take down Kansas and the rest of the Big 12 is being naive.

NCAA transfer numbers being what they are in today’s game, to think that all four freshman are still at West Virginia four years from now, well, that’s probably not going to happen.

Right now, it’s all looking rosy for the new guys.

“Jordan McCabe is unbelievable,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “He has taken film and digested film as well as anybody I’ve ever had.”

“He asked, ‘What does it take to be a point guard?’ Well, you’ve got to know who’s coming open first and who’s coming open second. If those two aren’t open, who is coming open third. You can’t just come down and heave the ball to somebody. That’s not being a very good point guard.”

Huggins on Culver: “Derek Culver is 6-foot-10, 260 pounds and might be the fastest guy on our team.”

Huggins called Doomes one of the best athletes on the team, surmised that Haley could be the most versatile player on the roster, and said Matthews is behind the others because his high school class didn’t graduate until early summer.

There’s promise. But the first season at Division I basketball is so unlike high school and junior college.

Not everyone is going to be a star. Some will deal with injuries or homesickness.

Some may become frustrated early on over a lack of playing time.

And some of them will likely transfer at best; stop working hard in practice and become a headache at worst.

That’s what happened to the highly-touted 2011 class. That’s what happened to so many highly-touted recruiting classes across the country.

If this 2018 recruiting class does stick it out over the long haul, by today’s standards, that would be a fantastic accomplishment.





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