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Signs aplenty before Murray departure

CHARLESTON -- The turnstile clicked again this past Thursday.

WVU's basketball coaches knew center Aaric Murray had become the latest to leave the program back then, before the news was made for public consumption on Monday.

"We mutually agreed it would be best for Aaric to finish somewhere else," Huggins told the Gazette.

It wasn't surprising Murray had become the eighth player, including seniors Deniz Kilicli, Matt Humphrey and Dom Rutledge, to leave the program after last season's 13-19 stinker.

There were signs Murray might not last. And more signs.

One could go all the way back to the center's days at La Salle - and even before - for some of those signs.

In case you were unaware, Murray began playing organized basketball as a 16-year-old at the Glen Mills [Pa.] School, a residential school for court adjudicated male delinquents of high school age. He was recommended there because of truancy.

Murray, though, had caught the attention of college recruiters at an NBA Players Association camp in 2008. And while at Glen Mills, he was rated the nation's No. 5 top center prospect by Rivals.com.

Landing Murray was quite the feather for La Salle. The player averaged 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds as a sophomore, but, at the end of the marriage, Explorers coach John Giannini said, "we did all that we could to help him as a person and as a basketball player."

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer piece, "Murray often wandered the sideline during games, appeared to not really pay attention during timeouts, sometimes acting out if he did not like the officials' calls. He was particularly inattentive at George Washington on Jan. 5 [2011] so Giannini suspended him for the Jan. 8 game against Richmond."

Sound familiar? After transferring to Morgantown, Murray was replaced by Kevin Noreen in the starting lineup for a 2012 November game against Marist in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Huggins said Murray was "late for practice" and "overslept."

Then, back in mid-December, Huggins decided against taking Murray to New York for a WVU showdown with Michigan. You might remember the coach's comment.

"I've left guys home that are way, way, way better than Aaric Murray," Huggins said at the time. "I've sent a couple of guys home after we got [to games] that are way, way, way, way better than Aaric Murray. Honestly, did we miss him? I don't think we did. And if he doesn't do right in the future, we won't miss him in the future."

That future is now.

And it's astounding the similarities between the player's stint at La Salle and WVU. After last season, our Dave Hickman wrote that "Murray averaged less than nine points and six rebounds and started only 11 of 32 games. His NBA stock is not high. He also seemed, at times, disinterested and moody."

There was also, of course, Murray's Dec. 2011 arrest in Philadelphia on charges of possession of marijuana.

His path has been disappointing because Murray has skills. He chose to transfer to WVU over Kansas. And this January, against Kansas and fine Jayhawk center Jeff Withey, Murray scored 17 points, had seven rebounds, blocked two shots, stole the ball twice and made three 3-pointers.

There simply wasn't consistency. Murray led the Mountaineers in personal fouls with 102 - 12 more than Kilicli. Plus, there were the discipline problems. Huggins simply couldn't expose his newfound standouts - Eron Harris and Terry Henderson - to that any longer.

So Murray will move on. He's graduated so he can transfer and be eligible at another school immediately.

For Huggins, maybe it's addition by subtraction. Perhaps it's the same in the case of Jabarie Hinds, who took 31 more shots than anyone else on last season's WVU team, but was only the team's sixth leading scorer (7.4 points). Hinds also had more turnovers (55) than assists (52).

Murray and Hinds are the two most notable players to be leaving WVU's program, other than the seniors.

So where does that leave Huggins? Well, one would think it leaves him a team with a better attitude. That's a start.

Also, it probably leaves him with a starting lineup of Harris, Henderson, Juwan Staten, Jonathan Holton and Devin Williams. A more experienced Gary Browne returns. Transfer Remi Dibo is expected to help. Then there's the wild card: four-star power forward Elijah Macon. Whispers are Macon isn't, well, making it, but Huggins insists there's still hope.

If you're wondering, by the way, how many scholarships WVU still has available to offer, the coach said two. He doesn't expect to fill those, however, before next season.

"I don't think we need to," Huggins said. "I think we're fine."

The subtractions, he believes, will add up for victories.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.

 


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