MORGANTOWN — At midday on a cold Wednesday, the doors to West Virginia’s Basketball Facility came open and welcomed in not only what is hoped to be the missing piece in this year’s still unbeaten basketball team, but the blueprint for future respect.
Behind him to record the moment and memorialize it on social media was a cameraman, all of it welcoming “The Boy From New York City,” a song recorded in 1980 fittingly enough by The Manhattan Transfer.
High-scoring, 6-5 guard Jose Perez, had just finished enrolling in WVU as a transfer from Manhattan College, where last season he averaged 18.9 points a game.
While his eligibility is not yet certified to either practice or play, WVU fully expects him to be with them for the second semester to provide them some instant offense for the run through the conference schedule.
That is the thinking this season, adding a proven player who left Manhattan not under any kind of cloud but because his coach was surprisingly fired.
“Jose certainly gives us more fire power for our team,” Huggins said in the school release announcing his enrollment. “He’s a guy who can score the ball at different levels. He shoots the ball well, drives it well and scores it close. He’s another experienced guy who has played a lot of basketball. We think he will be a great fit.”
That last point is the one that may address the future more than the present, even though Perez will be at WVU for only one semester.
You might have noticed that basketball signing day went by two weeks ago without the Mountaineers signing anyone.
“It’s different man,” Huggins said back on signing day. “It’s totally different. You look at the guys playing for us and they are sophomores and didn’t play very much as freshmen.”
He’s talking about the likes of Seth Wilson, James Okonkwo and Jamal King. They would have had to have played this year were it not for the portal, where Huggins landed Tre Mitchell, Emmitt Matthews Jr., Erik Stevenson and Joe Toussaint.
That completely rebuilt the team.
“When you bring in guys who have played in multiple major conferences and major arenas, those guys obviously are more prepared,” Huggins said.
It isn’t that Huggins is going to ignore recruiting freshman.
“We are probably going to continue to recruit freshmen, but it’s not going to be the priority it once was,” he said.
No more guessing if a freshman can grow into key roles. Either take a top line freshman or you can get a solid lineup out of the portal or junior colleges, which provided big men Jimmy Bell Jr. and Mohamed Wague this season.
“Look at the guys we’re going to lose after this season,” Huggins said, talking of Mitchell and Matthews and Toussaint and Stevenson and Perez. “We’re probably going to replace those guys through the portal, I’d guess.
“Obviously, you want to get the right guys and most of the guys we have are five-year guys. They probably will be replaced by portal guys and not freshmen ... because I don’t want you guys writing bad things about me.”
Perez comes to WVU with 97 career games under his belt, having scored 1,460 points with 444 rebounds and 338 assists at Gardner-Webb, Marquette and Manhattan.
Last year, at Manhattan, he earned first-team All-MAAC honors, leading the league in scoring and free throws made while finishing second in assists.
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