By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
You check out the resumes of West Virginia’s men’s basketball players and you find that Eron Harris, for example, grew up in the shadow of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Juwan Staten not far from Dayton, Ohio’s, Aviation Historic Park honoring that city’s most famous residents, the Wright Brothers, and Devin Williams not far from the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Almost doesn’t matter where you turn on the roster, be it Brandon Watkins from Decatur, Ga., right outside Atlanta; or be it Terry Henderson from Raleigh, N.C., or Kevin Noreen from Minneapolis. Each lays claim to a landmark.
But Remi Dibo, he spent his formative years growing up in an area where the landmarks are much different — the Louvre, the East Bank of the Seine River, the Arc de Triomphe or, perhaps the mother of all landmarks, the Eiffel Tower.
See, this West Virginia newcomer is from Montreuil, France, a suburb sitting on the eastern side of Paris.
He stands 6 feet, 7 inches and has a 3-point shot as smooth as the best French wine, a forward who hit four of eight 3-point attempts in WVU’s 88-55 victory over Presbyterian in Saturday’s Cajun Classic game that serves as a sendoff to the team to head to Mexico.
“First time I’ve ever been to a different country other than France and the United States,” Dibo admitted.
In some ways, because he is European, he would seem to be a different type of player than the ones WVU coach Bob Huggins normally recruits. European players are known less for their toughness, which has always been the Huggins trademark, than for their stop and pop 3-point shooting.
There is, however, a lot of what Huggins looks for in Remi Dibo beyond his smooth shooting stroke.
“He played for Rodney Crawford at Mountain State. Rock played for me and was an assistant at Mountain State in Beckley before he went to join (former John Beilein assistant) Jeff Neubauer at Eastern Kentucky,” Huggins explained. “Rock was a tough guy. He played for me at Cincinnati, was a hard-playing tough guy. He coached his team and referred to the Cincinnati teams when I was there. Remi kind of heard that. I think more than a normal guy like that Remi would know about what’s coming. He was more prepared than just taking a European guy.”
Indeed, Dibo was prepared.
He was drawn to Beckley because of what he had seen and heard of the school through ESPN, and he was drawn to WVU when Huggins began recruiting him.
“I picked West Virginia because Coach Bob Huggins is a great coach, and sitting down and talking to him about how he feels about how I am as a player, I think he can make me the best player I can be,” Dibo said.
“I feel like they need a mid-range game, a guy who can catch it mid-range and get up shots from there or pass it around to the guards who will knock down shots,” says Dibo. “I feel like there was a lot of one-on-one play last year; it seemed like the ball didn’t move that well, but I feel like with me they brought in someone who can help them.
“I know he just wants guys to play hard,” Dibo added. “He knows nobody is perfect, but as long as you play hard, there’s only so much that he can be mad at you for.”
Like so many Europeans — in reality, Dibo was born in the Ivory Coast but raised in Paris — his athletic career began with soccer.
“Around 12 I was getting tired of it,” he said. “People were telling me I was tall and should try basketball.”
His father helped push him along, all the while telling him not to idolize anyone but to create his own game and style, advice he would follow.
He became pretty good at basketball, playing for France’s under-16 team and Team Africa’s under-18 team, drawing a number of scholarship offers along the way, one even from Kentucky.
He found his way to Beckley for his senior year in high school, then to Casper (Wyo.) Junior College as he learned the differences in the game and culture, which were many.
Huggins, of course, after last year was looking for outside shooters and he was drawn to Dibo, who is an intelligent kid with a lot of skill and desire to go along with the proper upbringing in the Huggins system that came from his time with Rodney Crawford.
Dibo is even starting to mix in some rebounding in his game, and that’s important under Huggins.
“He’s not going to get seven or eight a game — he’s not big enough,” Huggins said of Dibo. “When we get into the league against some bigger guys, he’s going to get knocked around.”
But he also is going to either have to have a big guy guarding him, taking him away from the basket, or a smaller guy, allowing him to go over him while they are not as strong inside.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.