WVU to play with new attitude next season after disappointing end to 2011-12
Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 01:04
The feelings following West Virginia’s 77-54 loss to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tournament were much like they were during the last month of the regular season.
Another disappointing performance led to the end of the Mountaineers’ season, as well as the careers of seniors Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant.
It was a sign that they hadn’t improved over the course of the season.
Some players even went as far as to say they digressed in those final 10 games.
"At the beginning of the season, we would go hard for all three hours of practice," said freshman point guard Jabarie Hinds. "We laid down the past month. We were tired. It came back to hurt us.
"Coach always told us that we had to fight through it, and I don’t think we fought through it as much as he wanted."
They’re hoping to change that next season. Armed with a new attitude thanks to the dismantling they received at the hands of Gonzaga, the Mountaineers are looking to make up for the disappointment that WVU fans had to go through this season.
"That’s one thing I really care about," said junior forward Deniz Kilicli. "I’m always thinking about the people that come over here from Beckley and southern West Virginia just to watch us and when we have a performance like (that), it just kills me. It’s really hard to lose the game and look to the crowd and you see all those people still there for us, no matter what.
"Next year should be a payback year. We should just play as hard as we can and hang banners."
If West Virginia wants to do that, it’ll have to be without the two seniors who combined for more than 50 percent of the team’s total points.
On the bright side, the Mountaineers will be able to replace Jones and Bryant with two players more than capable of stepping in.
Transfers Aaric Murray and Juwan Staten will take the court for WVU for the first time since they left La Salle and Dayton, respectively. Murray was considered one of the Atlantic 10 Conference’s best big men, averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore and will have two years of eligibility remaining.
Staten can play three more seasons for the Mountaineers and tied for the Atlantic 10 lead in assists per game with Xavier’s Tu Holloway as a freshman.
"Juwan is just the fastest guy I’ve ever seen, and I’ve ever played against. He’s really smart. I think he’s got a great basketball IQ," Kilicli said. "Aaric Murray has (NBA) potential. He can be a lottery pick, he just needs to work and show himself next year, and I think he’s going to be great help for us. Aaric and Juwan are going to be a duo like Truck and KJ."
West Virginia knows it won’t be the most talented team coming into next year, and it knows that to compete in the Big 12 Conference, it will have to work a lot harder than it did at the end of last season.
"We have talent, but we’re not Kentucky right now," Kilicli said. "We don’t have that talent, so our chance to win games is just to play so hard and make the other team quit ... Everybody’s got to be on the same page."