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November 12, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN-Humphrey making most of his transfer

MORGANTOWN — Normally, if you see a college basketball player entering his final season at his third school, there are red flags everywhere.

This guy has to be a troublemaker, a flake ... and surely not yet having gone off to the professional ranks, probably isn’t worth the trouble he’s going to bring with his skills.

That, then, is what you are expecting as you approach Matt Humphrey, who makes his Mountaineer debut at 11:59 tonight against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash.

He is one of West Virginia University’s three key transfer players this season, joining point guard Juwan Staten out of Dayton and center Aaric Murray from LaSalle.

You expect a wise guy, maybe even confrontational and defensive, but Humphrey is none of that.

He talks easily and he makes sense, even though his background has seen him go from Hales Franciscan High School in Chicago and play for a club team known as MeanStreets to the West Coast at Oregon for two years and then to the East Coast at Boston College for a couple of years.

You look up the definition of well-traveled in your Funk and Wagnall’s, and you get a picture of Matt Humphrey.

You notice how mature and reasonable he is when he is talking about the transfer of Staten, someone wondering if he could make the jump from a mid-major.

“First off, I don’t think Dayton is by any means a lower-tier program,” he begins. “Picking a school, and I know this firsthand, it’s not about what level the school is on. Dayton was a good fit for him, and it’s not a mid-major. I mean, the A-10 is a pretty powerful conference to me. There are a lot of teams coming out of there this year — UMass, Xavier ... and Butler is in it now. They’ve got Temple. They have some pretty nice teams in there.”

By the time that lecture has ended the questioner offered an apology, but had a pretty good answer on his digital recorder.

“I do feel blessed,” he said of his having taken this Lewis and Clark route to wind up at West Virginia. “I don’t think guys know the risk factor of transferring, especially two times. Most guys can’t go from major Division I schools to another ... and this is my third one.

“Regardless of my situation not working out, I still feel like I am a pretty good basketball player and the last time I checked, coaches like basketball players,” he said.

His last transfer, from Boston College to WVU, came after Al Skinner, who had brought him there, was fired and replaced by Steve Donahue.

“I know it didn’t work out, but Coach Donahue wanted me because I was a pretty good basketball player. He met me at USA Basketball, before I went to college,” he said. “And with Coach Huggs it was the same way.

“I think if you do what you are supposed to do, regardless if it works to your phenomenal favor, you’ll be all right until the end,” he continued. “I feel I am all right.”

It’s a personal thing, about the same as a kid faces coming out of high school. All he knew was that he wanted to leave Boston College. He certainly didn’t have West Virginia circled or this burning desire to play for Bob Huggins.

“I definitely didn’t call West Virginia. I had the talk with BC. I went through the process of getting the release, and after the news of that got out I felt like I was in high school again,” he said.

“The first time I transferred, it didn’t shock me how many schools wanted me. Transferring is different than when you are in high school. It’s based on opportunity. People sign you with the idea you won’t be there for the long run.

“You look at the situations, pair them up with yourself, you find a good fit and go for it. Marquette, SEC schools, Dayton ... schools would just pop up, literally, every week. It’s real quick when you are a transfer. It’s like are we going to get you or not.”

But he had gone to one school for two years, had gone to another school and stayed for two more years. This transfer was going to be a one-year fix ... in and out.

  He understood that.

“I’m kind of washed up now,” he said with a laugh.

And so now he’s here, giving Huggins a shooter he can use and experience that is valuable.

“It worked out,” he said. “I think this year will be good. I’m doing my best to buy into everything Coach Huggs on a day-to-day basis.”

And that rent-a-player program begins tonight in Spokane against Gonzaga.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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