Huggins gushes over how the team is coming together

Texas guard Courtney Ramey (3) knocks the ball away from West Virginia guard Miles McBride (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Feb. 24 in Austin, Texas.

MORGANTOWN — In 30 minutes of a Bob Huggins press conference you never really ever know where he is going to go, for he is outspoken, opinionated, honest and has a sharp sense of humor.

But one of the items he dropped on Thursday afternoon was truly unexpected.

Someone asked Huggins about how Deuce McBride has progressed during this offseason.

Most of what he had to say was expected, for McBride is a talented young athlete about to enter his second season. He brings with a great work ethic and personal makeup, so you expect to hear superlatives, and you did.

“I think Deuce has improved tremendously,” Huggins began. “He’s really studied being a point guard and getting other people involved, but at the same time, he’s probably our best guy at creating his own shot.”

And right there Huggins put it into high gear.

“I can tell you this, in terms of calls of interest from people at the next level, he’s the first name out of their mouth, which I know shocks some of you. But that’s the first name out of their mouth. He has really made a name for himself in basketball circles.”

Think about that for a moment. Everyone thinks the two top NBA prospects on this team are Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver, the twin towers who ride inside for WVU.

But McBride has apparently pushed himself to the head of the class with his versatility, his clutch play, his defense and the fact that he has such a tremendous upside as either a point or offensive guard.

Huggins, of course, isn’t ready to give him up just yet.

In fact, a strong case can be made that he is the Mountaineers’ most valuable player because of the options he gives Huggins.

“With Deuce’s versatility, we can play him in a lot of places and that’s the X factor this year,” Huggins said. “What happens if someone catches COVID-19. They’re out for 10 days. What if their roommate catches it? Then that’s 14 days, two weeks. It’s important we have a lot of different parts at wing, at point, in the post. No one knows how long this will go on.”

That is one of the nice things with this year’s team, the depth that Huggins has as protection and a COVID disaster.

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Huggins keeps gushing about the way the team is working together and acting together.

“Right now, I don’t have much not to like,” Huggins said. “They are working hard, paying attention. We’ve been trying to throw a lot at them early to see how they react and they are doing good.”

One of the reasons is they enjoy each other.

“We’re blessed that our guys come and work out together,” Huggins said. “Generally, when you hear a ball bouncing (in the practice facility) it’s more than one guy. They play all the time. I think that what we learned is that we’re so much better off having them here in the summer than telling everyone to go home. I think they’re a whole lot safer here.”

Huggins understands that they will get to the point of wanting to start playing other teams, but they haven’t gotten there yet.

“I don’t notice (them getting tired of each other),” Huggins said. “They enjoy being around each other. It’s a special group from the standpoint that they do appreciate each other. They’re friends.”

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There is one new addition and that is former point guard Juwan Staten returning to WVU as a graduate assistant, something Huggins welcomed with open arms.

“He’s been playing across the pond, so to speak,” Huggins said. “He decided that he wanted to come back and 1. most importantly finish his master’s degree and 2. get his feet wet in the coaching profession. We were excited about having him. He was obviously a great player here and playing in Europe and learning more over there, being able to impart that onto this team. Our guys think the world of him. He’s got a great personality. He’s very easily approachable. He’s been great for us.”

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Huggins is willing to speak his mind and he does have a rather strong opinion on the decision to do away with a scrimmage and exhibition games this year due to the virus.

“I think that’s what happens when people make decisions that don’t know anything about what we do,” Huggins said. “I think it’s awful. I think it’s a tremendous detriment to our guys. For all the propaganda about the betterment of the student-athlete, certainly not playing an exhibition is not for the betterment of the student-athlete.

“I think a scrimmage is tremendous. We are going to play Texas A&M in our first game and there are guys that won’t get in the game. The same thing could happen in the second and third games.”

Huggins believes they would need to get a bit of playing time to adjust to the college game.

Follow @bhertzel on Twitter

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