Mountaineer Madness kicks off 2011-12 season for West Virginia basketball teams
Published: Monday, October 17, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 17, 2011 00:10
The West Virginia men's and women's basketball teams rolled out the carpet for the first time this season Friday night.
Both raised their respective NCAA Tournament banners from a year ago. Aaric Murray won the slam dunk contest and junior Deniz Kilicli played "Country Roads" on his guitar to the fans.
And just like that, the 2011-12 basketball season was underway.
More than 6,000 people watched Mountaineer Madness Friday night at the WVU Coliseum. Both men's basketball coach Bob Huggins and women's basketball coach Mike Carey spoke at the event.
"It's great to be here," Huggins said. "We have a great bunch of guys. They've been good so far, and I fully expect they're going to continue to be good. We have a great tradition to follow here. We just want to keep hanging banners."
Lone seniors Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones spoke to the Mountaineer fans in attendance, as well. Both said that while there is a lot of work to be done, they are happy with the seven new faces to the team.
"We just want to bring excitement to the program, keep getting wins, and go out the right way," Bryant said, followed by a roar from the audience.
However, the Mountaineers will be without one of their incoming players for the time being. It was announced just prior to Friday's festivities that junior college transfer Dominique Rutledge had been suspended indefinitely by Huggins for a violation of team rules.
Like Huggins, who returns two seniors, Carey returns just one to his team – center Natalie Burton.
When Huggins took to the podium, he looked over at Carey and said, "We ought to have twice as good of a year as you, because we have two seniors."
Carey's team is coming off a season in which it was ranked No. 6 – the highest ranking for the team in program history.
"We're very excited to get this season started," Carey said. "We'll work hard and get better as the season goes on. We have a great group of young ladies. They're somebody for everyone to be proud of."
Burton spoke with returning junior starter Asya Bussie.
"It's hard with five seniors leaving, but the freshmen are adjusting well," Bussie said. "They come with a lot of energy, and we're excited to have them."
The slam dunk contest followed team introductions.
Junior transfer Aaric Murray was able to edge out freshman Keaton Miles in the finals. He jumped over Truck Bryant and dunked with his first attempt, and he finished an alley-oop from Bryant who was standing behind the basket to score perfect tens.
The men's team then split into two teams and scrimmaged for 15 minutes. Jones and Bryant were the offensive catalysts of their respective teams.
Bryant highlighted the scrimmage with a one-handed, alley-oop to himself off the backboard.
Incoming players Jabarie Hinds, Aaric Murray, Gary Browne and Juwan Staten all showcased their offensive talents. Murray and Staten, both transfers, must sit out this season due in compliance with NCAA rules.
Both teams will open up their seasons on Nov. 11 as part of a doubleheader. The women will play Youngstown State at 6:30 p.m., and the men will go up against Oral Roberts at 9 p.m.