Huggins awaits chance to welcome team back to Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bob Huggins will soon have the opportunity to start putting the pieces together for the 2020-2021 season in person. On Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Council approved a start of required activities on July 20.

“We are getting calls from our guys constantly saying, ‘When can we come back? When can we get started?’ They are excited about coming back,” Huggins said. “They are excited about the season. This whole deal has kind of put a damper on some things. Their enthusiasm hasn’t wavered. And that’s a good thing.”

Huggins acknowledged that many of his players, scattered all over the country, have had difficulty just finding a place to workout individually.

“The majority of them, if not all of them, have done a pretty good job with keeping themselves in condition. The hard thing is finding a place to get some shots up. They have closed outdoor courts everywhere and being able to find a place to get in and get some shots up has been a tough deal for virtually all the guys.”

Players will be able to return to team facilities about two weeks prior to the start of practices on July 20.

“We have to do everything we can possibly do to make it as safe an environment as it possibly can be for them.”

After a 18-4 start last winter, a young Mountaineer team struggled throughout February, going 1-6 in between victories over Iowa State. They recovered and closed the regular season with a 76-64 win over No. 4 Baylor on Senior Day.

West Virginia guard Miles McBride (4) and forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. (11) celebrate after a play during the second half against the Baylor Bears at WVU Coliseum.

“Mentally, we got worn down. We went through a spell where we couldn’t make a shot. I think we were 0-for-22 inside 4 feet at Oklahoma. You have to practice doing that I think. I didn’t think you could just do that trying. It all came down to that we just mentally struggled.

“Then we got a little bit of rest and some different guys stepped up and all of a sudden we were playing really well. I thought we were playing as well as anyone in the league when everything got shut down.”

Huggins says it is still too early to project what attendance at home games could look like this season.

“If it spikes, we are going to have a problem. If it doesn’t spike, I think probably what most people are thinking and saying right now is maybe 7,500 instead of 14,000. If it looks like it is going away or has gone away, obviously we need to go back to putting 14,000 screaming and yelling Mountaineers in there to give us the best advantage we can have.”

One scholarship remains

As of now, twelve Mountaineers are on scholarship for next season. That leaves one scholarship open but Huggins doesn’t believe it is necessary to fill that spot unless the right fit comes along.

“We are still having people contact us and we have contacted some people. We could but we don’t have to. I think twelve is a good number for us. I don’t want to jam things up.”

Keeping an eye on ‘Best Virginia’

Prior to the pandemic, Huggins considered coaching the WVU alumni squad ‘Best Virginia’ in The Basketball Tournament. Ultimately, Huggins said his availability to his current players at all times took precedence.

“The pandemic affected it. My first responsibility, and when needed my only responsibility is with those guys. It has been hard. We have guys virtually all over the country and it is different in different places. My availability to them when needed is extremely important.”

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