WVU's missing hoopers; a look back at the 2010 Final Four team
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Late last week, West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins was on his way to Boone County for a fundraiser. A pig roast, it was. He was also preparing to recruit.
Such is the life of a hoops coach in the summer.
Now, though, limited practice is also a part of the summer. WVU's team has gone through a handful of practices. But as limited as practices are (one hour twice a week), so too is Huggins' roster.
"We only have two of our new scholarship guys - Devin Williams and Nathan Adrian," Huggins said.
Seems like a problem. If you don't understand, consider the roster turnover after the Mountaineers' disappointing 2012-13 season. Heck, just look at the Mountaineer roster, at least as it appears on the program's website.
Currently listed as team members are Adrian, Gary Browne, Eron Harris, Terry Henderson, Aaric Murray, Kevin Noreen, walk-on Richard Romeo, Juwan Staten and Williams. That's it, nine - not even enough for a scrimmage.
"We've got a bunch of walk-ons," Huggins said. "James Long, Brett Morris, Richard Romeo and Chase Connor are here."
But what of the incoming freshman scholarship players?
"Elijah [Macon] is waiting on a test score," said the coach. "Remi [Dibo] went home to Paris for a while, but will be back for the [summer school's] second semester. [Jonathan] Holton is finishing up some summer work. Brandon [Watkins] will be here for the second semester."
All, according to Huggins, are on track to join the team. Apparently Holton, a one-time scoring and rebounding standout at Rhode Island, has resolved his legal issues to the coach's satisfaction.
Browne is also missing. He's with a Puerto Rican team playing in the Boris Stankovic Cup in China. Other countries represented there are Argentina, Australia, China, Nigeria and Germany. The host country defeated Puerto Rico in the opening game. (Browne was not among his team's top three leading scorers.)
So what of the players currently practicing?
"Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, I think, have been really good," Huggins said.
He said Harris will play some point guard in the upcoming season, but added, "I don't think he'll be there full time."
Huggins said Noreen was also playing well. Then I asked if the coach was frustrated by the lack of available players.
"Not really,'' he said. "The good thing is [former player and graduate assistant coach] Da'Sean [Butler] is here playing in open-gym situations. Same with Alex Ruoff and John Flowers. Joe Alexander, Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks are here at times.
"With those guys around and playing in open gym, it keeps everything competitive."
Ebanks has been on the Los Angeles Lakers' roster, while Jones has been on that of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Huggins also pointed out that many Mountaineers are participating, as always, in a Pittsburgh summer league.
This past week, I had the honor of spending time with Archie Talley, one of the state's all-time basketball greats. We were trying to come up with the name of former Mountaineer J.D. Collins, which sent me to the WVU hoops media guide.
While I had my nose in said guide, I scanned the box scores of Huggins' 2009-10 Final Four Mountaineer team. What I realized is the accomplishment is more impressive in hindsight.
If you watched the NBA Finals, you saw Miami Heat guard Norris Cole. Well, back in late 2009, he played for Cleveland State and went 11 of 21 from the floor for 29 points in an 80-78 WVU win.
Yet Cole wasn't the only eventual NBA player the Mountaineers faced en route to their 31-7 season. Far, far from it.
Here's the list I compiled, aside from Cole:
"We played against a bunch [of NBA-caliber players]," Huggins said.
At least 23. And that doesn't count players of the ilk that haven't panned out, like Big Ten player of the year JaJuan Johnson of Purdue, Notre Dame's Luke Harangody, South Florida's Dominique Jones, Marshall's Hasaan Whiteside, Pitt's Ashton Gibbs, Villanova's Scottie Reynolds or Cincy's Yancy Gates.
Nor does it count three other players selected in Thursday's NBA draft - Duke's Mason Plumlee, taken with the 22nd pick by Brooklyn; Louisville's Peyton Siva, the 56th pick by Detroit; and Alex Oriakhi, who played for UConn at the time before transferring to Missouri and was chosen with the 57th pick by Phoenix.
Keep in mind NBA teams have but 15 roster spots. And there are but 30 teams.
Which makes WVU's 2009-10 run even more dashing in retrospect.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.