The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

December 31, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU freshmen need to play consistently

MORGANTOWN — There is an old saying about a chain being only as strong as its weakest link, a saying that all too often can be tied to success in athletics.

This is especially true with this year’s West Virginia Mountaineers, a team that escaped a rugged non-conference schedule with an 8-5 record, which included nary a victory over a team from a power conference.

The reason that was so, even though this edition has a number of solid players in Juwan Staten, Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, is because it had to rely far too heavily on freshmen recruits who were being asked to run before they walk in college basketball terms.

Now the non-conference portion of the season is over and if WVU is to put together an acceptable run in Big 12 play, it will be because the freshmen figured it out.

Quite simply, WVU will be as good as its freshmen.

With Staten, Harris and Henderson, Bob Huggins knows what he is getting on any given night, all of them possessing a track record upon which one can rely.

Freshmen, though, are another story, their immaturity leaving them vulnerable to wide mood swings and their game still inconsistent enough that you hope for this or that out of them rather than expect it.

The final few games of non-conference play gave hope, however, that the freshmen are catching on and growing into their roles, ready to take their place alongside the veteran players.

Devin Williams, of course, has started the whole season and exhibited enough talent to warrant it despite his mistakes.

Brandon Watkins showed off his skills against Marshall and followed that up with a solid effort against Purdue, giving WVU a player who not only can play defense around the rim and rebound, but a player who allows them to move Williams to a forward, for playing 16 feet or so from the hoop and facing it seems to be where he is at his best.

And then, in that latest victory over William & Mary, Nathan Adrian shed his freshman beanie and did what he was brought in to WVU to do … made a string of 3-point shots while playing hard on the boards and being willing to dive to the floor.

He did all of that despite suffering a broken nose in the game, displaying the kind of toughness and determination that could make him a special player before the season is out.

“I was always taught to play as hard as I can, no matter what. That’s what I do,” he said in the aftermath of canning four of five 3-point shots and setting a career-high of 16 points.

Adrian impressed Huggins with his determination, but more important, he impressed his teammates. Nothing is harder for a freshman to do than win over the confidence and admiration of teammates.

“I saw a guy who came in at first who was quiet,” said point guard Juwan Staten. “We all knew he could play and could shoot the ball well. Now he’s adding other things to his game. He’s rebounding, hitting the offensive glass, diving on the floor and showing he’s a tough kid.

“I see him maturing a lot as well as hitting his shots and keeping his head up when things aren’t going his way.”

The trick now is to do it consistently … not just Adrian but also Watkins.

Things get tougher now as you move into conference play, the Big 12 being the leading conference in RPI ratings in the country, which means no more playing teams like William & Mary over which you possess a great athletic advantage.

Now the freshmen must cut back on the mistakes, for little mistakes against non-conference opponents don’t make much of a difference. Against Kansas they become baskets at the other end or fouls that quickly put you on the bench.

In the Big 12 you not only must play smart, but you must also play Smart — Marcus Smart, the Oklahoma State star who may just be the best player in the country.

“As freshmen, they are always going to have ups and downs, but it’s about having more ups than downs,” Staten said. “I think that’s what we’re seeing now. We’re asking a lot of our freshmen, especially with the system we play. It’s not really an easy system to grasp.

“They are embracing it. They are not crying about it. They are not getting frustrated. They are just going out and giving their all … and that’s all we can ask for.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

  • Gold-Blue Game answers few questions at quarterback

    Dana Holgorsen finds himself in a quarterback quandary.
    He’s looking to have one quarterback and has five of them as spring practice ends, and nothing about the spring session has done anything to straighten out the situation.

    April 13, 2014

  • Moore ‘back at home’ under center

    There are a couple of ways to look at what Logan Moore did this spring after being moved back to quarterback and given a chance to compete for what is a wide open job, as wide open at the end of the spring as it was coming in.
    The first is to say that he didn’t wow Dana Holgorsen to the point that he’s willing to say he’s the leader going into summer drills, but that would be shortsighted considering from where Moore came.

    April 13, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos