"People just got tired of getting hit. People just got tired of running around and chasing us,'' Kilicli said, referring to earlier WVU teams he played on that won 52 games and were a combined 5-2 in NCAA tournament play. "We were quicker than anybody. We had more stamina than anybody else. We were tougher. We were more physical. That's how it was.''
Again, past tense.
Granted, those previous teams weren't always less talented. A couple of NBA draft choices, Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks, were a huge part of the 2010 team.
But the notion of which Kilicli speaks probably is still valid. Huggins has somehow coaxed all five of his West Virginia teams into the NCAA tournament without anything approaching the type of talent that makes recruitniks woozy. He doesn't do it with smoke and mirrors, but with grit and determination, the very attributes that made guys like Mazzulla and Thoroughman successful despite their physical limitations.
"We weren't better shooters or we weren't better passers. But this is the thing: We have more talent than we had last year, but we couldn't win as much because we weren't as tough,'' Kilicli said. "Next year we've just got to stop all this. Everybody's got to be on the same page and everybody's got to know where they're at.''
Kilicli, of course, has to be included in that. So that it doesn't appear that the big Turkish center is just sitting back and pointing fingers, he takes a share of the blame, as well. Yes, he played from late December on with a hip pointer and a couple of sore ankles and lost 12 pounds one week when he got sick, but those are excuses. And he'd rather not make excuses.
"It's not easy, but it's not that hard, either. You just work hard every day. That's all it is,'' he said. "When you have an injury or something you just say, 'All right, well, I'm just going to take a couple of ibuprofens and I'm going.' That's what [WVU's recent and more successful teams] did and that's what we've got to do.''
It should a bit easier next year, not to do what Kilicli professes (that's never easy) but to convince the majority of the roster to buy in. It was difficult this season because there were so few who had gone through it before - Kilicli, Jones and Truck Bryant being it. Next year even the two most promising additions know what it's all about because transfers Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray have spent a year in the program.
"In the talent department they're going to bring a lot,'' Kilicli said. "Juwan is just the fastest guy I've ever seen, that I've ever played against. And he's really smart. I think he's got great basketball IQ.
"And Aaric Murray has league potential. He can be a lottery pick. He just needs to work and show himself next year. Aaric and Juwan are going to be a duo like Truck and K.J. It's going to be great.''
As long as the right mindset is there, too.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.