In addition to personal practice without coaches in attendance, the 2012-13 edition of the Mountaineer basketball team has started sessions with the coaching staff in small groups – perhaps a bit smaller than Huggins would like. None of the freshmen are in town yet, and two returnees, Kevin Noreen and Gary Browne, missed the opening sessions as the recovered from injuries. However, over the past couple of days, the numbers have improved, and will be bolstered even further as June progresses.
"Our new guys come in next week and that will be the first time we get to work with them, which we are looking forward to," the veteran coach noted. "Kevin Noreen has been cleared to practice, so he's back, and Gary Browne should be cleared in a couple of weeks. From everything I've heard, he should be good to go."
Huggins and his staff are hoping to get some scoring support from incoming shooting guards Terry Henderson and Eron Harris, who make up two-thirds of the class of 2012. Both have the ability to score from the perimeter, and will certainly have the chance to earn playing time based on their production. However, they'll also have to go through the acclimation and make the adjustments that most freshmen do.
"The physicality, they will have to fight that a little bit," said Huggins of the slender duo. But I think they can make shots."
The third member of the trio, forward Elijah Macon, is still attempting to earn a qualifying test and GPA score, and is not expected to arrive with Henderson and Harris.
Huggins was enthusiastic about the progress of the veterans in the early sessions, and hopes that will translate to a few extra wins this winter.
"The old guys are amazing in the difference in their confidence level," he noted. "Right now, it's really good. They have been here a lot, judging by all the music I hear, and have been working hard at the new practice facility."
In those early sessions, Huggins notes that work has been divided between individual skill development and drills that can be folded into the overall offense later on, when full team practices are permitted. At least half of the time of these early sessions has been devoted to "team" type drills, even though there's not a full complement of players to work with. The sessions started with just eight players, but as noted, has been bolstered by Noreen's return and will soon see the additions of three more.
Huggins continues to concentrate on his players, and hasn't given a great deal of thought to the opponents West Virginia will face in the Big 12 this year. The Mountaineers certainly got a good sampling of the physical side of the conference when they squared off against Baylor and Kansas State last year (going 1-1), so the style of play in the league shouldn't be a big shock. As always, Huggins remains confident about what his team is going to do than worrying about what other squads will run.
"Everyone asks me that (about preparing for the Big 12) and I always say, maybe they should be worried about what we are going to do against them," he said. "Really, basketball is basketball. I think the thing about the Big 12, the difference is that everywhere you go it's an unbelievable crowd. There's student involvement, and it's a great home court advantage. Sometimes in the Big East you don't get that. But I think we've played enough in those environments to be ready for it.
"Other than that, I don't think the Big 12 is that much different," he summed up "Being in the Big 12 for a year and then coming to the Big East, I didn't see a lot of difference."