There were fresh faces all over the court, as just four players return from last year’s team.
Seniors Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant spoke to the crowd of about 6,000, and so did head coach Bob Huggins. The attitude was simple: it’s a new group of players, a new style of play and a whole bunch of unknowns for the Mountaineers in 2011-12.
After an entertaining dunk contest won by Aaric Murray, West Virginia scrimmaged for 15 minutes.
The defense was similar to an NBA All-Star game, but that gave the new players a chance to shine on offense.
There were highlights throughout the 15-minute span that included a slew of Murray blocks and ally-oops from nearly every point guard to every forward on the roster.
It’s very clear, even after such a small time on the court, that this team will be filled with more talent and athleticism than Huggins’ team last year.
I noticed a significant difference between WVU players in the Pittsburgh Pro-Am Summer League to now. The coaches have definitely left their mark.
With players like Jabari Hinds, Gray Browne, Keaton Miles and others on the roster, there’s no doubt that WVU will have the ability to press and run the floor on offense. It’s just too bad two of the team’s best players, guard Juwan Staten and Murray, won’t get to play alongside Bryant and Jones this year. That would be a treat to see.
It will be interesting to see how players like Deniz Kilicli and Kevin Noreen fit into this system. To me, those two players don’t necessarily fit that type of a system. Then again, they will have to learn to deal with it, because that’s how the Mountaineers will have to play.
Heading into Friday night’s Mountaineer Madness, I laughed when I saw that Dick Vitale ranked West Virginia as the 29th-best team in the country.
While I don’t expect WVU to be that strong, especially early in the year, I saw potential that I didn’t expect to see. If that translates to a game with full-on defense and Big East Conference caliber talent, the Mountaineers should be just fine this year.