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Fluctuating minutes and changing spots, Haley tries to acclimate

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Moving around is as much a part of Jermaine Haley’s life as breakfast or basketball practice.

West Virginia’s 6-foot-7 guard, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, began his college career at New Mexico State before attending Odessa (Texas) Junior College as a sophomore.

He signed with the Mountaineers in hopes his moving around had come to an end, when they were actually just starting.

Haley’s tall frame make him a candidate to switch from point guard to shooting guard or small forward.

His struggles to shoot the ball have also made him a candidate sometimes to watch from the bench.

“I think he can play a lot of positions,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “We have played him at small forward. He’s a better shooter than he acts like he is. He’s always been a pass-first guy.”

Welcome to life on this West Virginia roster, where you can be starting at the point one minute and struggling to get into the game the next.

“I’ve been trying to adjust,” Haley said. “I’m trying to figure out what exactly [Huggins] wants me to do.

“I know I can do a lot of different things, but I know that different nights may mean different things. I just have to get more comfortable with my role and continue to help the team.”

Hand and elbow injuries to Beetle Bolden earlier this season meant a starting gig for Haley and Brandon Knapper. That lasted all of one game.

Based on what Huggins sees from his cast of point guards in practice, minutes in games can fluctuate.

Some examples:

— Haley played four minutes in the season opener against Buffalo, but played 26 against Florida. He started against St. Joseph’s and played 15 minutes, but played two more minutes off the bench in Saturday’s 69-59 victory against Pitt.

— Freshman Jordan McCabe played 18 minutes against Rider and Valparaiso, though his playing time has been cut recently. He saw only five minutes against Florida and did not play against Pitt.

— When McCabe sees action or whenever shooting guard Chase Harler is out of the game, it generally means Huggins is playing with two point guards.

If it’s McCabe and a combination of Knapper or Bolden, then the Mountaineers are playing small — neither of those three players are listed above 6-foot. That can be a dangerous matchup defensively for the Mountaineers (6-3), who are preparing to face Rhode Island (4-3), at 1 p.m. Sunday, at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

Jermaine Haley is averaging 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 13 minutes per game in his first season at West Virginia. He’s shooting 54 percent inside the arc but is 0-of-3 from 3-point range. He has 10 assists, 10 turnovers and six steals.

Haley’s size makes West Virginia’s defensive matchups more manageable.

“He can see over the defense,” Huggins said. “Those other guys are really small. They have to look under somebody’s arm to see open guys. He can see over people. I like that. I like his length and he gives us another rebounder.”

The counter is if West Virginia is playing a team with smaller and faster guards, then Haley may have a harder time handling the ball.

“Different matchups and different teams can mean different things,” Haley said. “I can still bring the ball up, but usually against smaller guards, I’ll go over to the wing.”

No matter the rotation, Huggins will likely not have a lot of trust in any of his guards until they stop turning the ball over.

While strong backcourts skew toward a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, the combination of Bolden, Knapper, McCabe, Haley and Harler have 76 assists and 65 turnovers.

“All of them, they have to stop turning it over,” Huggins said. “We turn it over at an alarming rate.”

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