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Elliott: Freshmen Falling Short At W.Virginia

February 10, 2012
By JIM ELLIOTT , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MORGANTOWN - The much-talked-about freshman class at WVU is falling short of expectations.

Perhaps not mine or yours, but most certainly those of Coach Bob Huggins.

Huggins talked at length Wednesday night after the team's fourth loss in five games about a group of guys who simply just don't get it.

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They don't understand the system, they don't understand what all goes into doing what it takes to succeed, and, he said, they don't understand what it means to put on the jersey and represent West Virginia.

''Maybe I'm too much this way, but I know how much this means to our people,'' he said. ''I know how much this means to the people in the state of West Virginia. And it's not that you don't lose, but my God, I mean, if the ball's on the floor, dive on it. You're not going to get hurt. Listen, if you haven't made a shot in three weeks, maybe you ought to get in the gym. Maybe you ought to get in the gym on your own. We're only allowed to practice so much time.

''Let's be honest, we've got guys that have made 4-5 shots the last three weeks - some of them have made 4-5 for the year - and they're jacking 3s. You didn't see John Flowers do that. I just don't know what goes through their heads sometimes.''

On a veteran team, Huggins said, some of these guys who are seeing significant playing time would be sitting on the end of the bench.

''They wouldn't have played,'' he said. ''And I told them, 'you have a wonderful opportunity.' The problem is we still need to win.

'' 'With that opportunity to play comes responsibility. You have to know what you're doing.' It's frustrating when I sit in there and say here's what we're going to run, here's where you go, then we've got a guy who runs out there not in the right place, or we dribble to the wrong side of the floor.''

Flowers wasn't the only player from last year's team - one that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament with just eight scholarship players - to be used as an example of why things worked then and aren't now.

''I love Cam Thoroughman to death, but we were playing a 6-5 center who couldn't shoot,'' Huggins said. ''But he did everything else. And he knew what he was doing and I could make adjustments. The frustrating thing now is I can't make an adjustment. That's frustrating.

''We all act like (Joe) Mazzulla was like John Stockton. He played hard, he had great will. He couldn't shoot. What I give those guys credit for is you walk in here during the day, those two guys were shooting free throws. Cam Thoroughman was an awful free-throw shooter. But he was in here all of the time working at it because he wanted to win.''

From there, he rewound even further, talking about a guy who hadn't played basketball at the school since 1977.

''I don't see those freshmen in there all day,'' Huggins said. ''And I don't understand it. When I didn't shoot it well, I was in there shooting the ball. I didn't even shoot it.''

He mentioned how he'd been the second-leading scoring in the history of high school basketball when he graduated. It meant nothing to Coach Joedy Gardner.

''When I came here, they said pass the ball - I passed the ball,'' Huggins said. ''I want to win. The coach had a good idea.''

It's a quick turnaround. From Wednesday night to Saturday afternoon for the young Mountaineers. That's not a lot of time to grow. We'll see if they have.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at:

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