Brandon Watkins

Identity change for WVU hoops in 2014-15 season

On Tuesday, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins addressed the media for the first time this fall. The Mountaineers’ 2014-15 season is rapidly approaching with the first game of the season a little more than a month away.

The Morgantown native, who is entering his eighth season at the helm for WVU, said with practice beginning Friday, the athleticism he believes this squad has is way better than his teams of recent years at West Virginia.

“We probably won’t shoot it as well from three, but we’ll pass it better, we’ll rebound it better, which I think more than makes up for that, but we’re way more athletic than we’ve been,” Huggins said.

Coming off a 17-16 season, while being 9-9 in the Big 12 a year ago, Huggins said the 2013-14 season brought about many challenges on all sides of the ball that his squad could not handle. However, he said rebounding from those struggles is a test this squad is prepared for.

“(Last year) we hit a draught and couldn’t stop the bleeding and I think with this group, we’re going to be able to rebound the ball and to this point, I think we’re going to be way better defensively,” he said. “I think our strength is going to be that we’ve got a number of guys who are capable of doing a lot of things.”

Even after losing key players in Eron Harris, Remi Dibo and Terry Henderson, Huggins said if anything, this team is still better all-around and knows two keys that are needed to succeed this season.

“I hope we can get back to where we can guard people and where we can rebound the ball. I think if you can’t do that, it makes it hard,” he said. “It makes it hard to stop other people’s runs. If you look at the most successful teams here were teams that could guard and they could extend possessions by rebounding the ball.”

When asked who Huggins felt is really stepping their game up entering this season, he simply said “everyone” and expanded on why he believes that.

“I think Devin (Williams) is much, much better. Devin’s understanding is much, much better,” he said. “Brandon (Watkins) blocked thirty shots a year ago and hardly played – I think he’s going to give us a guy who can do a better job protecting around the rim. Elijah (Macon) is bouncier than the guys we’ve had. Jaysean (Paige) physically should be able to guard.”

Overall, Huggins said he is happy in the early direction this Mountaineer squad is taking as the first game of the season will be against Shepherd on Nov. 9.

“They’re fun to be around, they’re enthusiastic and they’ve been good – hopefully it continues. It’s a long season, but they like being around each other, so it should be good.”