By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Before West Virginia University took the floor on Friday night for the Gold-Blue Debut scrimmage that was put together to present this year’s basketball team to its fans, coach Bob Huggins took the microphone for a short introductory speech. After making some jokes at the expense of our green-clad friends in the southwestern part of the state, Huggins got serious for a moment.
“We didn’t do what we were supposed to do a year ago,” he began. “Well, I want you to know we’ve had several talks. These guys assured me they will represent you and the state the way you are accustomed to being represented.
“We’re going to work the way you do. We will go to work every day with idea we will be the best, just like you do.”
It was a quick talk, a talk to the point that hit home and drew applause from fans, who were in a mood to cheer, right from the moment all-time great Hot Rod Hundley was introduced as the first Mountaineer to walk down the carpet this year.
And, if they had just gone to autographs and skipped the scrimmage, it would have been a perfect evening, but, by the time the Blue team had defeated the Gold team, 41-32, in a game stopped after three quarters, perhaps due to the mercy rule, there really wasn’t much Huggins could say about his team other than:
“We’re not as bad as we looked.”
And, in truth they aren’t.
They couldn’t be.
Being a team without much depth, and then splitting the best players to each side to make it competitive … well, you didn’t get a true look at what it will be like when Huggins has Eron Harris and Terry Henderson on the court together with Juwan Staten and an improved Gary Browne and Kevin Noreen.
As it was in this game, the Mountaineers couldn’t run much offense … looking at times a lot like Dana Holgorsen’s football offense.
Therefore, Huggins wasn’t worried about that.
“It was pretty much what I expected,” he said, “except I was surprised we did not make more shots. One thing we’ve doing consistently is making our shots.”
Not in this game.
The Blue team made 33.3 percent of its shots.
And from 3-point range?
Blue 3-19, 15.8 percent, Gold 3-18, 16.7 percent.
You want to know how bad that is. Last year Gary Browne was the worst at 20.4 percent and Jabarie Hinds, who was atrocious, to use a word Holgorsen uses to describe his team’s play at times, shot 27.4 percent.
Staten, of course, was 0-for-9 from 3 last year, but at least he learned his lesson and didn’t try any Friday night.
Huggins was unswayed, though, by the awful shooting.
“I think we’re going to make shots,” he said. “We are shooting too well to have many nights of 3-for-19 from 3.”
The good news is that Jonathan Holton looked like he might be a player, scoring 11 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, blocking two shots and adding a pair of assists.
Now, if they can only get him eligible.
Gary Browne also looked much improved, although his shot was off at 1-for-5 from 3, but he had 9 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists to go along with 4 steals.
Perhaps the tipoff of what the night would be like came in the dunk contest, won by Eron Harris, as walk-on Tyrone Hughes was one of the three contestants.
Believe it or not, Hughes couldn’t dunk the ball. He didn’t miss dunks … he didn’t get up high enough to get the ball over the rim.
Forward Remi Dibo, a junior college transfer, underwent surgery Thursday to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and is expected to miss two to three weeks.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.