By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
The basketball had come crosscourt to Remi Dibo in the corner of the Coliseum court in front of the student section.
While this had happened countless times before since he had taken up basketball rather late in life, it had not happened very often in this situation because, even though he is listed as a junior, his eligibility had been used up at such out of the way outposts as Casper College and Mountain State Academy, each a rather unlikely destination from someone from Montreuit, France.
Quickly he caught the ball, no defender really in position to defend, allowing him to launch a jump shot that normally does nothing but swish through the basket.
But Dibo had spent the last three weeks recovering from minor knee surgery and as such, his shot was not quite where it normally would be.
“I have to get my game legs on. Once I get my legs back, they will go in,” he said, following his West Virginia University debut against Mount St. Mary’s in a 77-62 victory.
The ball went halfway down into the basket before spinning out. For just a moment, Dibo stood and looked on in surprise before realizing that the Mount was off on a fast break.
Not hesitating a moment longer, he beat a hasty retreat — and we do mean hasty — those legs that didn’t offer much shooting support stretching out in strides so long they seemed to be swallowing the court.
Somehow he got back in time to disrupt the fast break, to shake the ball loose where Juwan Staten could gather it in, change directions toward the other end, split defenders and go in for an easy score.
The play made a huge impression on the only man the players have to impress — Bob Huggins.
“I think the biggest thing all of them are getting to understand is that you have to keep playing,” Huggins said, bringing the entire first-year class together with Dibo on this one play. “He missed a shot. Normally, he would have had his head down and been standing there talking to himself about why it didn’t go in, but instead he made a great effort to get back and kind of knocked the ball enough that Wanny gets it and made a great play splitting the defense to score
“That was a great hustle play that he would not have made before.”
Remi Dibo, you see, is still learning basketball, but he’s learning it fast.
“He is unlike anyone I have ever played with before,” said Staten. “He has size, but he can also put the ball on the floor. I look forward to playing with him more and more.”
Born and raised in France, his was a circuitous route to Morgantown. As a youth, like almost everyone in France, he began his athletic life playing soccer.
“I did a little bit of everything,” he said.
He wasn’t kidding.
“I started with soccer, but I had quick feet so they said I should try karate,” he said.
That was only natural. His father, Paul, dabbled in karate.
“He was a seventh-degree black belt,” Dibo revealed.
That sounds impressive, and is, one website defining a seventh-degree black belt as a “Senior Teacher — up to 35 years training and teaching in the Martial Arts.”
An eighth-degree black belt, the next step up, is defined a “National Leaders” or ”Important People.”
Dibo got his yellow belt, but dealing with the situation as he had to deal with it, it wasn’t for him.
“It was a lot of crazy stuff, a lot of discipline,” he said.
Besides, someone had mentioned with his size and his speed and quick feet he should give basketball a try.
“I scored 50 points the first time I played,” he noted.
And so it began. He got what training he could in France, then migrated to the U.S., first to Casper College, then Mountain State, where Huggins came across him.
“He’s bigger and stronger. He played at Mountain State for Rodney Crawford, who played for me. He has a little bit of an idea of what we’re trying to do,” Huggins said. “We made a conscious effort to get some guys who can make some shots and guard. I think he played pretty well for coming off three weeks and practicing two days or a day before the Fairmont State exhibition.”
“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 and obviously West Virginia is a great place,” said Dibo.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.