CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You probably know West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins and his staff are recruiting players from Huntington St. Joseph Prep, one of the nation's top basketball programs.
WVU has been on Montaque "Tekki" Gill-Caesar, a 6-foot-6 top-25 small forward, for quite a while. Back in September, Irish coach Rob Fulford hinted Huggins had a very good shot at the player. Gill-Caesar visited Morgantown for its midnight madness deal.
Likewise, the Mountaineers have been in on JaQuan Lyle, a 6-5 guard, who is available after dropping his commitment to Louisville. As you might remember, Lyle dropped the U of L after the Cards picked up junior college star Chris Jones.
This past week, I spoke to Lyle after school.
"I went to Morgantown two weekends ago," he said. "It went real well. I went to the football game and a basketball game. It was a great visit. The fans were very supportive."
Remember, WVU has a commitment from another Huntington Prep player in 6-10 Levi Cook, who transferred there from Liberty Raleigh. The hope in Mountaineer camp is Cook, a 2015 recruit, will flourish against Prep's top competition - and maybe sway some of his current teammates.
Huggins and staff, however, are struggling with landing that program's upper-echelon players. Gorgui Dieng went to Louisville and is now with the NBA Minnesota Timberwolves. Andrew Wiggins, the nation's No. 1 2013 recruit, is with Kansas.
And now there are more clouds for the Mountaineers. Kentucky and Michigan State have suddenly entered the Gill-Caesar race. WVU went from a good bet there to a long shot. Gill-Caesar, in fact, seems to be John Calipari's No. 1 target for 2014. MSU's Tom Izzo has the Spartans No. 1 in the rankings.
Lyle, meanwhile, received a visit from Kansas on Thursday and says he has an offer from the Jayhawks.
"I have eight schools I'm considering," Lyle said. "Kansas, Providence, Oregon, West Virginia, Indiana, Connecticut, Memphis and Florida State.
"There's really no leader. I'm just enjoying the process and season."
Yet the hill seems rugged for the Mountaineers in regard to either player - let alone young Miles Bridges, whom Fulford considers the second-best player he's coached behind Wiggins.
The thought from here, though, is simple. WVU's coaches need to step up their recruiting games. In regard to Gill-Caesar, Huggins should do what he's always done to Calipari, at least on the court: beat him.
Do you know Huggins' teams have defeated those of Calipari eight of 10 times, including that 2010 WVU stunner in the NCAA East Region final?
True, it's tough to compete against the recruiting steamroller that's Calipari and Kentucky. It's sort of like trying to beat Nick Saban and Alabama in football.
Also, UK has more hoops tradition than any school. That's a fact. In contrast, WVU drew but 4,814 this past Thursday for its Georgia Southern game.
But West Virginia is a top-25 hoops program in regard to wins. It began the season No. 24 all-time.
Huggins is the winningest coach in a talent-laden Big 12. He's No. 3 among all active coaches.
Now he can kick-start his program by knocking off his buddy Calipari, at least in a couple recruiting wars.