The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

December 12, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - Freshman duo slowly coming on

MORGANTOWN — They’re getting it, these freshmen of Bob Huggins.

Honest to goodness — and what was it Mae West said? “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie,” — kids like point guard Gary Browne and wing Aaron Brown are beginning to figure out the college game and it’s making a difference for the West Virginia Mountaineers.

From the start, this was going to be an interesting year for Huggins.

Like aren’t they all?

But this year was going to bring him back to his roots, make a teacher as well as a coach out of him, seven freshmen and Kevin Noreen, who might as well be, playing big-time basketball.

True, they are big-time freshmen, but when you play in the Big East, nearly everyone once was a big-time freshman but has put some game experience and savvy under his belt. What is new to these kids every day are lessons their competitors learned long ago.

It’s like in baseball, which may be the best analogy, for it really is hard to be a rookie. Ask Sandy Koufax. Oh, he was a 20-game winner, it just took him the first four years of his career to win those 20 games.

Once he learned, he won 25, 26 and 27 in three of his final four years in the game, 19 in the other.

Or ask Mike Schmidt. First full year, .196 batting average, 72 hits, 136 strikeouts ... and he wound up in the Hall of Fame.

You see, your physical skills only get you so far. You have to learn about yourself, about your opponent, about your coach.

Aaron Brown, for example, feels it coming. The first game, against Oral Roberts, he scored 10 points, probably on nervous energy. It took him three games to score his 10 points and until he scored seven at Kansas State and seven at home against Miami, he had looked lost.

No more, says Huggins.

“AB has made some shots. He has made some big shots. He made some shots under pressure for us, and I think he continues to get better defensively. He made a couple of post feeds, which he has not made before,” Huggins said.

Brown is starting to think, to see what teams are going to him so that he can counter it.

“Teams are trying to run me off the 3-point line,” the Brown without the “e” said.


“I give them an up fake, take two big dribbles in and if the big man is open I dish it off, if not, it’s open for me to shoot,” he explained.

Learning, thinking, gaining experience.

Next, of course, the defense will catch on. It will adjust, telling its players not to fall for the ball fake. It’s up to Brown then to realize it and maybe go right up from 3 for a while, try to draw them to him so he can drive around them.

Then there’s his roommate, the Browne with the “e,” a point guard from Puerto Rico, who Huggins is in the process of trying to mold into a kid with more talent but the same mentality that Joe Mazzulla had.

“Gary has got to play hard. I told Gary he has to go like Joe Mazzulla. When Joe didn’t play hard, he wasn’t very good. He finally learned he had to play hard all the time and then he was a pretty good player,” Huggins said.

“We are trying to get Gary to realize the very same thing. Honestly, he made some shots in the first half that I’m sure surprised him because they surprised me.”

How many shots like that can you remember Joe Mazzulla making as he sacrificed his body in the lane or stood at the free throw line and shot free throws right-handed because he couldn’t get his natural left hand above his shoulder?

The two are roommates so they have a lot of time to talk about basketball, about what they are learning, what’s tough to learn. They know each other and Gary Browne knows that Aaron Brown is coming along.

“He’s playing really, really good. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s making shots, big shots. And he’s playing hard on defense,” Browne said.

The point guard said he and the small forward go back to the room and talk about the games. One might imagine they also talk about starting. Both, though, are saying all the right things.

“Oh yeah,” Browne said about possibly starting, should that come along. “I’m ready for everything, but I’ll do whatever Coach asks me to do. If he wants to put me in for five seconds, I’ll do it. We are a team, a family. Nobody thinks, ‘Oh, I should start.’ We do whatever we need to do to help the team.”

It appears they already have learned the most important lesson, and one that is more and more lost in this day and age — team, not individual, comes first.

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU depth chart sends messages

    Perhaps the most impressive thing about the depth chart West Virginia University put out at the end of spring practice was that the coaches were able to put out a depth chart, which certainly is an improvement over a year ago when the Mountaineers were really short on quality players.

    April 25, 2014

  • WVU baseball hosts K-State in Big 12 clash

    The West Virginia University baseball team will host Kansas State in a key Big 12 Conference series thisweekend at Hawley Field.
     Game one begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, game two begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday and the first pitch for game three is set for noon on Sunday.

    April 25, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: NCAA football is thriving in the digital age

    The other day Baylor football coach Art Briles walked into his graduate assistants’ office and had to laugh at what he saw.
    “There’s five guys sitting in there — a couple of GA’s and some office personnel — and they all are within a foot and a half of each other and not a one of them is talking to each other,” Briles said, describing the scene “Every one of them is on the phone.”

    April 24, 2014

  • O’Brien leads WVU baseball past Marshall

    Catcher Cam O’Brien made a bid at becoming only the second West Virginia University player to hit for the cycle as the Mountaineers jumped on Marshall early and routed their in-state rival, 10-3, behind strong pitching from Corey Walter and a pair of relievers.

    April 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU faithful again have a reason to root against Vick

    It would be one final indignation, that’s what it would be if Michael Vick were to beat out Geno Smith and win the starting quarterback job with the New York Jets.

    April 23, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- West Liberty’s Crutchfield not interested in Division I

    You would think Jim Crutchfield would be a great candidate for a head basketball coaching job at an NCAA Division I university.

    April 23, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Luck open to WVU fans’ suggestions

    West Virginia’s fans have spoken, perhaps not verbally but nonetheless have had their voices heard, over the past few years as attendance has fallen at the Mountaineers’ football and basketball games.

    April 22, 2014

  • WVU athletic department to form Fan Experience Committee

    The West Virginia University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is forming a fan experience committee to discuss the needs of Mountaineer fans with the hopes of enhancing the fan experience at its events.

    April 22, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Popovich, now 73, wishes he were playing baseball today

    If you’re a long-time baseball fan, you may recall Morgantown’s Paul Popovich.

    April 22, 2014

  • Mountaineers ready for slate of rivalry games

    Looking to put together a late-season run to get into the NCAA championships, West Virginia faces a pair of midweek rivalry games in a crucial five-game week coming off winning two of three games at Oklahoma.

    April 22, 2014

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