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No matter the height, Holton can help WVU

AP Photo
Jonathan Holton (right, battling Xavier's Jeff Robinson in 2012) averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds at Rhode Island.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Between the time he committed over the weekend and signed with West Virginia on Monday, Jonathan Holton shrank by two inches.

No worries, though. Bob Huggins will take him either way.

"That was his mid-major height,'' Huggins said of Holton, who was listed at 6-foot-9 when he played at Rhode Island two years ago but is actually 6-7.

At 6-9 or 6-7, though, Holton - who officially signed a letter of intent Monday and become WVU's fifth recruit for 2013 - fills a need for Huggins.

As last season wore on - and on and on and on - Huggins lamented the fact that he had a team built for Big East play. It was particularly evident in WVU's frontcourt, where guys like Deniz Kilicli and Dominique Rutledge were prototype Big East-style players. They were big enough (barely), but they were also anchors. They were at their best when they were truly in the post.

Holton is different.

"He's more like [Romero] Osby,'' Huggins said Monday, referring to the Oklahoma forward who finished third in the Big 12 in scoring, sixth in rebounding, was among the top five in field goal and free throw percentage and could also step out and shoot 3-pointers.

"He can bounce it, he can get it at the basket, he can shoot the 3 and he can go out and spread a defense,'' Huggins said of Holton. "We were lacking that.''

Holton can also rebound on the offensive end. At Rhode Island in 2011-12, he averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds. He was among the best offensive rebounders in the Atlantic 10 and he was just a freshman.

And Huggins loves offensive rebounders.

"When you shoot as bad as we do,'' Huggins said, "you have to love them.''

But Holton, of course, does not come without certain baggage. Like so many other Huggins has recruited over the years - at West Virginia to a certain extent and before that at Cincinnati to a greater degree - Holton's had his missteps.

His career at Rhode Island came to an abrupt halt when he was arrested just after his freshman season in late March of 2012 and charged with two counts of video voyeurism. Holton allegedly videotaped consensual sex with two students. Although the sex was consensual, the recording was not.

The videos were later posted online, which prompted the two victims to file complaints. Holton, through an attorney, denied he posted the videos. The case remains open in Rhode Island and is scheduled to be disposed on May 29, according to court records.

And then, two days after his arrest on the video voyeurism charges, police discovered that a laptop computer in his possession had been reported stolen from a dorm at URI.

The result of all of that, as far as his basketball career was concerned, was that he was dismissed from school. Shortly thereafter he enrolled at Palm Beach County Community College in Florida. He grew up in Miami, so that was essentially going home and getting his act together.

Last fall, he committed to Florida International coach Richard Pitino, but was released from his letter of intent after Rick's kid left FIU for Minnesota. That eventually led Holton to WVU.

Huggins, of course, has had to field questions about recruits before. He doesn't care for it, not because he doesn't have a good answer but because no answer will satisfy some people.

"You can recruit a Phi Beta Kappa and someone will find something wrong with him,'' Huggins said. "You just have to do what you think is right.''

Over all these years, Huggins has probably batted .500 or better on reclamation projects such as Holton. It's just a matter of giving them discipline and goals.

Then again, it's hard to keep tabs on anyone 24/7/365.

"I think guys do so much better under structure,'' Huggins said. "Think about it. When guys get in trouble it's usually in the offseason. You can't give them the same structure then and that's usually when all the things happen.

"We have a little more access to them now in the offseason, so that helps. It's only two hours a week, but it helps.''

Hopefully that structure pays off for Holton. If it does, it could certainly pay off for Huggins and his team.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.


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