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ELLIOTT: Huggs Giddy About Future

June 12, 2012
By JIM ELLIOTT - Staff Writer ( , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - If you saw the way last season ended and you're uneasy about West Virginia's men's basketball prospects for 2012-13, you're not on the same page as head coach Bob Huggins.

The man is practically downright giddy, assuming that emotion is possible for a guy like Huggins.

In his first five years in Morgantown, Huggins has rarely had two healthy and productive point guards. With Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, and Dayton transfer Juwan Staten, he thinks he has three.

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The big man situation, too, has been in flux, but Huggins thinks another transfer, 6-foot-10 Aaric Murray from La Salle, will be a tall help. And, let's face it, the flip of the calendar is rarely a bad thing. A huge crop of freshmen has grown.

''They're significantly better,'' Huggins said. ''(Aaron Brown) is significantly better. They're playing with so much more confidence. They were out there running around like 'what am I supposed to do? Where do I go?' I think now they're very comfortable in what we're doing, and they're doing what's expected of them. We're way ahead of where we were.''

This three-headed point guard deal is going to be something to watch.

''Having Juwan and Jabarie and Gary is a luxury we've never had,'' Huggins said. ''It will help us against pressure. We'll be able to get the ball in the lane a little more.''

He said there's a good chance all three of those guys will be on the court at the same time.

''Juwan will make a big impact just being able to get the ball up and down the floor," Huggins said. ''We've had to play a lot slower than what my teams have ever played but you have to do what you have to do to win. With him and Jabarie, they'll have a hard time taking both of them away on outlet passes.''

Murray, meanwhile, is a menace in the middle.

In two seasons at La Salle, he blocked 143 shots, which is second in school history. As a sophomore, he led the Explorers in scoring (15.2), rebounding (7.7) and blocks (2.3).

''Aaric's got a chance to be a really special player,'' Huggins said. ''He's got to dedicate himself to it. He has a lot of physical attributes. There's a difference between doing it and doing it with great commitment. If he does that, he could be special.''

Granted, Murray's statistics are two years old and were compiled in the Atlantic 10 and this is the Big 12, but the guy is a difference-maker.

''Aaric will be our best passing big guy, which we struggled with a year ago,'' Huggins said. ''Playing him and Deniz (Kilicli) together is going to be a load. We've got to get Deniz to continue to rebound the ball better. Provided he does that, Aaric will rebound.''

Dom Rutledge, a junior college guy who came on strong at the end of last season, will help there too, along with 6-11 redshirt freshman Pat Forsythe, a center who was lost to injury in mid-December and subsequently granted a medical hardship waiver. Forsythe is planning to play in Europe for a few weeks this summer and Huggins thinks that experience will be invaluable.

And then there's Kevin Noreen, who through two years in Morgantown has yet to play a game past January because of injuries. His game does nothing to flatter a box score, but Huggins would love to have a full season of him.

''We were 5-2 (in league play), 15-4 (overall) or something when Kevin Noreen went down. And everything went downhill after that because he gave us things we didn't have,'' Huggins said. ''Great ball movement. His guy never got a rebound. He did a great job help defensively. Losing him really hurt us.''

Noreen was cleared to play last week.

As far as the move to the Big 12, Huggins said the crowds are more student-heavy in the Big 12 but everything else is a non-factor.

''Basketball,'' he said, ''is basketball. We'll figure it out.''

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at:

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