By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
There was a moment late in Saturday afternoon’s unchallenging Cancun Challenge basketball game which saw West Virginia University streak past Presbyterian, 88-55, when West Virginia freshman Devin Williams went to the free-throw line for two shots.
At the moment, Williams possessed nine points and 10 rebounds, needing to make one of those two free throws for a double-double.
This, however, was no given, for he managed to have made only 6 of his last 17 from the line, perhaps the sole negative in what was shaping up to be a very positive freshman year.
As he stood there, teammate Eron Harris began chanting “DOUBLE-DOUBLE, DOUBLE-DOUBLE,” pulling hard for the freshman, who admits he was well aware of the situation.
“I knew,” he said, “but I’m more happy I went 2-for-2 (than that I got the double-double). I’ve kind of been struggling from the free-throw line.”
When both shots went through, you could see a look of relief and a look of satisfaction cross his face, perhaps understanding that much had transpired to take some of the pressure off him.
There was the chanting from Harris, of course, to show he had backing, and then there was an unseen moment involving Williams and coach Bob Huggins that had to ease any pressure he may have been feeling.
He had been on the bench with those nine points and 10 rebounds, itching to get back in to take a shot at the double-double, Huggins noticing it and putting him in, only to have him almost immediately kick one ball out of bounds.
In years past, especially with a freshman, Huggins might have yanked on his leash and brought him back to the bench, but Huggins senses something quite different with this team.
“When he kicked it out of bounds I said ‘What are we doing now? Trying to get a triple-double?’” he recalled, making a joke out of something he probably wouldn’t have found funny a year ago.
“It’s a different deal,” Huggins said, talking of this year’s team. “They have a different relationship with each other. They have a different relationship with us.”
He then noted that earlier in the day the team had talked about their trip to Cancun to face Old Dominion on Tuesday and then St. Louis or Wisconsin.
“We were talking about what they need to bring on the trip. Juwan Staten said, ‘Now listen, this is a business trip. This isn’t a vacation.’ We haven’t had that in a while,” Huggins said.
“They like each other; they like being around each other. Devin is a big part of that. He has a great personality.”
Indeed, he does, for when asked if he was ready for the trip he replied, “Yeah, I’ve got my swim trunks and sandals packed.”
But he also added a caveat to it.
“This a business trip first,” he said.
With this team, business is becoming a pleasure. It is now 4-1 and, more important, it is bonding unlike anything we’ve seen in the last few years.
“Eron and Terry (Henderson) said they were going to make sure the new guys coming in weren’t going to be treated the way they were treated,” Huggins noted. “Not that they were treated bad, but it was kind of indifferent. Nobody ever really put their arm around them and said, ‘Welcome to the family.’
“They have gone out of their way to make sure it happens. That’s not a knock on the other guys. That’s just their personality.”
Huggins then related that Corey Blount, one of his better players at Cincinnati, was in town for this game.
“He was the Godfather of Bearcat basketball,” Huggins said. “Everyone who came in, Corey made sure he got to know them, welcomed them, said here’s my number, you need something, call. This is a guy playing in the NBA. He was the guy.
“I think that’s what some of these guys want to be. It’s a different kind of deal when you go in the gym and Da’Sean (Butler) is in there and working out and K.J. (Kevin Jones) is in there working out and Joe Alexander comes back and (Alex) Ruoff is back.
“All those guys are starting to come back and feel comfortable, feel like this home, and that has an effect on the new guys coming in.”
And it has an effect on the way they play.
Presbyterian never had a chance as it fell to 1-5, WVU getting 19 points from Harris, 16 from Staten, 14 from Remi Dibo and 11 from Williams while shooting 49.2 percent for the game and outrebounding the Blue Hose, 40-28.
The rebounding was so complete that Presbyterian only got one offensive rebound off the glass, the other two being balls knocked out of bounds by WVU.
Staten also had seven assists without a turnover and now has 38 assists and four turnovers for the season.
Jordan Downing had 18 points to lead Presbyterian.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel