Despite a second straight season of failing to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, the West Virginia men’s basketball team had reason for optimism for the 2014-15 season.
The Mountaineers finished 17-16 (9-9 in Big 12 Conference play) last season, which included three wins over top-25 teams, most notably No. 8 Kansas in the last home game of the season.
Since Juwan Staten made his announcement to stay in school on March 31, two of WVU’s top three scorers have left the program, undoubtedly raising eyebrows among the Mountaineer faithful.
Sophomore guard Eron Harris could’ve been one of the most talented shooting guards in the Big 12 next season. He followed up his promising freshman year by averaging 17.2 points per game on 44 percent shooting while starting in all 33 games.
On May 7, Harris finally received permission to be released from the program so he could attend school closer to his hometown in Indianapolis, IN. Harris’ choice of schools has reportedly been narrowed down to Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan and Auburn.
Two days after he was released, guard Terry Henderson also requested a transfer release from the school. Henderson was third in scoring on the team, averaging 11.7 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in his sophomore season. He was arguably the team’s best and efficient shooter.
Then, on May 10, it was announced forward Remi Dibo would likely leave the program to play professionally in his native country of France. Dibo and coach Bob Huggins will reportedly talk about Dibo’s future plans, but according to the coach, he’s set to leave.
"I have not talked to him," Huggins said. "But, he has told one of our assistants that he is returning to France to play professionally."
Dibo transferred to West Virginia from Casper College after the 2013 season. Despite limitations on defense and rebounding, Dibo averaged 7.1 points per game last season off the bench.
Transferring schools isn’t something unfamiliar in Morgantown. Last season, Huggins lost Jabarie Hinds, Aaron Brown and Volodymyr Gerun to transfers and kicked Aaron Murray off the team for detrimental conduct. Murray averaged 21.6 points per game at Texas Southern last season.
Since the team’s Final Four appearance in 2010, Huggins has lost 13 of his 23 recruits.
It’s also worth noting Huggins inherited his Final Four roster from the previous coach, John Beilein, as the key players on that team were mostly comprised of seniors.
In my years of following college basketball, it’s rare to see this many players leave a program in such a short span. Obviously, the players loved the program enough to be recruited to play, but somewhere along the line, those feelings changed.
It’s difficult to see a situation where WVU basketball is relevant in 2015, despite having one of the best players in conference on the roster in Staten.
Despite turmoil in Morgantown, Huggins remains adamant that his team’s future is bright.
"We’re going to be fine," he said. "I’m excited about the year and what we’re doing. I think our guys are excited about the challenge. I think there is a lot of excitement."
Huggins may be the hometown hero of Morgantown, but the fact of the matter is, he hasn’t made a tournament appearance since the team’s embarrassing first round lost to Gonzaga in 2012. Huggins needs to fix his program before more players head for the exits.