Moving Targets

West Virginia's primary basketball recruiting targets are located in the northeast, with New York as the bullseye. But first-year assistant Ron Everhart says that's not the only focus – and might not be the most important – for the Mountaineers as they transition to the Big 12.

Everhart, a Fairmont, W.Va. native, coached Northeastern and Duquesne from 2001-12, developing contacts geared toward where the Boston and Pittsburgh-based programs are located. But he also has stints as a Tulane assistant and with McNeese State in Louisiana as his initial head coaching job.

"People forget that before I spent five years in Boston, I spent 13 in Louisiana," he said.

And he will again delve into all those recruiting areas, with perhaps a renewed focus on the Bayou as the Mountaineers begin to play more games in its neighboring state of Texas.

"I think it kinda gets more enticing, to be honest with you," Everhart said of WVU's move from the Big East to the Big 12. "I think the Big 12 offers maybe a little bigger stage nationally overall. You hear commissioner (Bob Bowlsby) talk about having more All-Americans, more academic All-Americans, than any other conference, more Heisman Trophy winners.

"I think that is attractive to any prospective student-athlete who aspires to play at the highest level. Ultimately, on our end, everybody you recruit you hope is going to aspire to be an NBA player. At the end of the day, what stage gives that kid the best opportunity to achieve that dream? I think the Big 12 provides that for anybody."

Everhart also noted that the exposure loss of the marquee major conference postseason event in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden might not be the blow many expect.

"I don't think there are a lot of guys who give a second thought as to where that tournament is being played," he said. "Most kids look at it as prospects and want to know if it's played on TV. I don't know that anybody could tell you where the ACC Tournament is played, where the Big 12 Tournament is played, the Big East, whatever. It's the fact that it's on national television.

"If it's played in New York, Kansas City or Toronto, Canada, it doesn't matter all that much in terms of a guy making a decision where to go to school."

Now, some fans and pundits would argue that, if one buys all that, there's a certain bridge in Gotham for sale as well.

"I do think there are New York kids who grow up wanting to play in the Garden," Everhart acknowledged. "But there are kids who grow up in the Mid-Atlantic wanting to play for West Virginia, kids who want to play wherever around their home. That doesn't change much. Somebody said the other day it would be tough for you guys at West Virginia to travel to Kansas City for the tournament. Is it any tougher or more challenging for us than it is Texas? Oklahoma State? Texas Tech? It's all air travel. You have to get from here to there, what's another 45 minutes on a plane?"

The other significant aspect of the change for West Virginia will be stylistic. The Big 12 appears to be a mix of the physical, bruising fight that is the Big East and the finesse flair of the ACC. It's a unique hybrid, with incredible talent backed by marquee coaches with wildly varying styles, even within states. Compare a Bill Self-coached squad, with its ability and style, to the grinder of a program built by Bob Huggins and Frank Martin and continued by current Kansas State head coach Bruce Webber, and one begins to understand the widely varying approaches faced.

That shouldn't hinder West Virginia much, as there wasn't much of a base comparison between Georgetown's Princeton-style and Villanova's four-guard look, for example.

"Well, I'll say this," Everhart said. "I've coached a lot of teams for a lot of years. I sat down with coach Huggins, watching some stuff, and he is showing me this, that and the other, breaking down everything as it happens. The thing that kept coming to mind was that this guy is a great basketball coach. He really defines every part of the game in a way that kids can understand and we can communicate it to them. He really understands what's happening, how to change tempo, how to change to whatever happens in the game, defensive, offensive, transition.

"Quite frankly, I couldn't be any more confident than I have ever been with anything in my life as a coach, than to walk out as an assistant coach with Bob Huggins, regardless of what league or who and where we play. I have to believe he takes the personnel, he's a guy who takes yours and beats his and takes his and beats yours. He truly is. It's great to be back here. I'm honored."


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