MORGANTOWN — West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins has been around long enough to know not to feel sorry for himself because of an injury.
He’s seen too many of them, even dealt with his own heart attack.
He saw his best player, maybe the nation’s best player, Kenyon Martin, break his leg just before an NCAA Tournament in which his University of Cincinnati team may have been the best team.
He saw Da’Sean Butler, his best player, go down to a knee injury against Duke in the Final Four, a game that seemed to be over but in which his Mountaineers had not yet folded up the tent.
Now this year he has seen a talented freshman point guard, James “Beetle” Bolden, tear his ACL in a practice and be lost for a season in which Huggins had to replace not only Juwan Staten, one of the best point guards at WVU, but his backup, Gary Browne.
Bolden, though undersized, figured to get a great deal of playing time and possibly play himself into the starting spot by the time conference play came along.
That spot is really the only one on the team that is in flux, and Huggins needed all options available.
“We lost a hell of a player (in Staten),” Huggins acknowledged. “He’s good. At the end of the game, he didn’t lose the ball, you couldn’t trap him and by and large he made free throws. That’s pretty good. I could say just give him the ball and get the hell out of his way.
“Obviously, you miss that.”
Bolden had shown great promise in the trip to the Bahamas. Even though he’s just a few months out of high school in Covington, Kentucky, he held his own running the team and showed no fear.
“He was playing against men down there, too,” Huggins noted.
So, what are the alternatives?
Now it looks as if Huggins is going to have to do what he really didn’t want to do at point guard, and that is start Jevon Carter there.
Carter seems more suited to playing the off guard, his best role being as a shooter and not as a facilitator, yet he did reasonably well when forced into that role for three games late last year when both Staten and Browne suffered injuries.
“I think Jevon Carter is pretty good. I really do. I know they aren’t going to help off of him,” Huggins said, meaning have the man defending him sinking inside to help against Devin Williams because Carter is such a scoring threat.
The problem is that last year, when at the point, Carter’s shooting suffered.
Carter was the point guard in the final two regular-season games and the Big 12 Tournament matchup with Baylor.
He made just 3-of-23 shots, which is 13 percent, in those three games, including an 0-for-10 against Kansas. Then he struggled terribly through the NCAA run to the Sweet 16, making just 5-of-22 shots to end the year hitting only eight of his 45 shots, 17.8 percent.
As things played out before the injury, Huggins saw Tyrik Phillip and Bolden doing most of the work at the point, with Carter filling in at times. Now Carter seems destined to do a lot of playing there, necessitating Huggins to sit down and chat with him before practice officially began.
“We talked about it,” Huggins said. “He doesn’t think (playing point guard will hurt his shooting) at all. I think last year he was just a little overwhelmed. He never had played there. I think he will be fine. He’s been fine. He’s done a good job.”
The player who came on last season was Phillip, although he is going to have to take care of the ball better than he did last season when he had a few more turnovers than assists.
The thing is that Huggins has depth at the guard position and enough versatility to do some different approaches, but losing Bolden cut into the possibilities, even if it does prove to be the best thing for him as he will have a year to watch and gain strength.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.
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