The West Virginia University men’s basketball team looks almost brand new in 2013.
Over the summer, Aaric Murray, Keaton Miles, Jabarie Hinds, Aaron Brown and Volodymyr Gerun parted ways with the program. Head coach Bob Huggins and his team also lost forwards Deniz Kilicli, Dominique Rutledge and guard Matt Humphrey to graduation.
With no seniors on this season’s team, West Virginia will rely on its veteran players for leadership.
Junior guard Gary Browne enters his third season with the Mountaineers and will likely split time with Juwan Staten at the point guard position.
As a sophomore, Browne played in all 32 games with 12 starts. He averaged 5.6 points per game and 2.8 rebounds per game in 20 minutes of action, and was third on the team with 48 assists.
Browne, who originally hails from Puerto Rico, played with his national team this summer, which he says prepared him better this offseason.
“I feel like last year I didn’t work as hard as I’m working right now,” Browne said. “Working with the Puerto Rican national team helped a lot and gave me a lot of confidence. It made me realize how much I have to work in order for to me to have a good season.”
During the 2012-13 season, the Mountaineers were No. 9 in shooting percentage among Big 12 Conference teams, which perhaps explains Browne’s abysmal 33 percent shooting percentage from inside the arc.
The Mountaineers also ranked No. 6 in three point field goal percentage, shooting just 32 percent.
Better shot selection will be a key of emphasis for West Virginia in 2013-14, and Browne said it is something that he works on every day.
“If you don’t (practice) constantly, then you won’t constantly be ready in the game,” Browne said. “So if I don’t work on my shot constantly, then I won’t make them (throughout the season). This season is a whole rebuilding year for me, so I’m trying to work hard enough to help my team.”
Browne was part of a Mountaineer team that finished with just 13 wins last season, which marks Huggins’ worst winning percentage since he started coaching in 1980. West Virginia failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.
Despite their downward spiral in recent years, the Mountaineers have brought in several new freshmen this summer who look to contribute right away.
“We want them to know what to expect,” Browne said. “I feel like the young guys are doing a good job of that and (are) doing a good job of keeping up with the (upperclassmen).”
For only being with the team for three seasons, Browne and forward Kevin Noreen are the longest tenured players on roster. In past seasons, the Mountaineers could rely on senior leadership from Kevin Jones or Darryl “Truck” Bryant for consistent support.
While he’s not a senior, Browne said he’ll have to step into a bigger leadership role this season.
“I feel like (the upperclassmen) are working hard enough to make sure that we’re the ones who lead,” he said. “As upperclassmen, we know what to expect, and we’ve been through a bad season. We just want to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”