West Virginia’s Kilicli is a Work-in-Progress

MORGANTOWN – Could West Virginia’s 6-foot-9, 270-pound center Deniz Kilicli possibly be as strong as West Virginia’s video team makes him out to be?

When Kilicli, a Turkish import with freakish power, is introduced during the pregame, the video board at the WVU Coliseum shows him squeezing the life out of a basketball. He begins with a fully inflated ball and ends with two sides of the thing touching in the center.

It seems impossible, and there is likely a trick involved, but still, who else would want to portray themselves this way? He’s just a different fellow.

Shake his hand at your own peril.

The truth is, Kilicli, a sophomore who missed 20 games his freshman season while serving a penalty for playing with professionals in his homeland, is a work-in-progress.

“Deniz is lost,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said.

It’s true. While he’s caught onto to the language faster than anyone could have predicted, he’s still learning the way basketball is played here.

He’s got an indefensible, old-school hook shot that he makes more than he misses, but his defense is still under constant scrutiny and his rebound totals are head-scratchers.

“I’m just trying to get used to it as soon as possible,” Kilicli said. “It can take me a year like Casey (Mitchell, WVU’s breakout senior JuCo transfer), or it can take me three games or it can take me 10 games, I don’t know. I’m just coming in every day with a positive attitude.”

Huggins agrees with that.

“He’s trying,” Huggins said. “I don’t have a problem with him not trying. He’s overwhelmed right now with a lot of stuff. And it’s amazing, honestly, that he understands what he understands. Just learning the language the way he did.”

Huggins says Kilicli learned the language while watching TV.

But he’s yet to learn to follow that hook shot, rebound it, and put it back, as he’s generally fading away from the basket, and he doesn’t have a complete understanding of what Huggins is trying to do with the offense.

“So what happens when I get the ball, I’m like ‘what am I going to do?’ and all that stuff, so I’m thinking too much,” Kilicli said. ”It slows down the offensive motion. I think I’ll be all right.”

Most times.

His taking an 18-foot jumper against American University on Wednesday night was not one of those times.

Clearly, Huggins didn’t think that was a good idea.

“I could kick that many in,” Huggins said. “He’s just got to understand what he’s got to do. I don’t have a problem letting him step out and letting him shoot if he has a chance to make them. But you have to have a chance, there’s got to be some semblance of hope that it might go in.”

Kilicli was so unaware of where he was on the court, he thought it was a 3-point attempt.

“I felt it, but he didn’t like that,” Kilicli said. “He’s like, ‘we’re not going to win games with you shooting 3s.’ It’s not hurting us this game. It will hurt us if I do it Syracuse game. I mean, I won’t do it if (the score is) close.”

Seems to me it will be a while before he does it any situation.

“Eventually hopefully, he can step out there and make some 17-18 footers. But for right now, he’s just kinda doing what he can do,” Huggins said.

In truth, he can still do a lot. It’s not easy to move 270 pounds in the paint, and his hands, as big as they are, are as soft as pillows around the basket.

Huggins predicted Kilicli to eventually become an All-Big East type player when he recruited him.

I don’t know if he’ll make it that far, but I’d never tell him that. I’ve got a (somewhat) round head to think about.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net