Attitude, not Talent, Problem with Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN When you look at some of the numbers West Virginia has posted this season, they’re a lot closer to the bottom of the NCAA charts than the top.

That’s saying something considering there’s 345 Division I basketball-playing schools across the country.

Those numbers – 318th in field goal percentage, 207th in assists per game, 188th in points per game – might lead you to believe the Mountaineers simply aren’t overly talented.

Don’t believe that, coach Bob Huggins said. He thinks these Mountaineers, who are 9-9 after 18 games, have more of a mental problem than a physical one. After all, he’s won more games with less talent in the past.

“It’s been a struggle to ingrain how hard you have to compete,” Huggins said. “When you’re the (318th)-worst shooting team in America, you have to play hard.”

If it’s what you do to prepare for a game that helps you win it, these guys are sunk before tip-off.

“I believe you get out of this game what you put into it,” Huggins said. ”If you don’t invest anything, why would expect to get anything out?. You can’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket. You can’t get into the stock market unless you invest. Obviously, the more you invest, the more you get out.”

Huggins pointed to a guy like Kevin Noreen, who is notorious for being a gym rat and wonders why Noreen’s teammates see extra workouts as such an option?

“The reality is, I think for a good portion of them, this is not the most important thing to them,” Huggins said. “I’m talking God, family, and then basketball.

“That’s the way it has to be. It’s not that you don’t have fun. I tell them, ‘college is the greatest time of your life, enjoy it, but take care of your business first.’ “

He said guys will tell them they simply don’t have time. So he breaks down their day. Three hours of class, two hours of study hall, one hour of lifting weights.

“That’s 18 hours (left over),” Huggins said. “They’re like, ‘nah that can’t be right.’ ‘Ya, that’s right.’

”I don’t know what’s wrong with putting another hour or so in, maybe to work on your game. I worked that out.”

He talked about CBS pulling the game against Purdue in favor of a closer one because West Virginia had fallen so far behind.

“I’ve never had a team not compete like that,” Huggins said.

And perhaps, that’s what happening with this very average West Virginia team. They’re getting out exactly what they’re putting in.

“I don’t get it. We have guys that lose and it doesn’t bother them.”

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: