Getting In the Gym

On several occasions this year, West Virginia head basketball coach Bob Huggins has noted the need for players to make time to work out on their own. If some players aren't doing so, who should be ensuring that they mend their ways?

Bob Huggins hasn't been shy about calling out his players for what he sees as shortcomings in their understanding of what it will take to get West Virginia over the hump toward a successful season. He has often mentioned the need for players to to work on shooting, ballhandling and other fundamentals on their own time, in addition to regular practice sessions. He's done so in a variety of ways, from highlighting successful players of the past and present to comparing the stresses of the pro game to the collegiate level workload. Still, it appears as if some players aren't getting the message. And if they don't (and fast) WVU is going to miss out on postseason play.

Huggins isn't going to call those players out by name. He didn't do so a year ago, when apathy and disinterest caused the team to disintegrate, so he's not going to do it this year, when the reasons for the close losses to date have more stemmed from a lack of knowledge and understanding that anything. Still, it's clear that he's doing everything he can to encourage those who aren't spending enough time in the practice facility to amp up their investment. He certainly says so to those players on every occasion, and he uses almost every available media session to reinforce the message. Question is, does the ultimate responsibility for getting extra work in fall on the coach or the players?

This is an age-old argument, and it's not going to be settled in the few hundred words of this space. One thing that should happen, though, is that the players who are leaders on this team need to do all they can to make sure that those who aren't putting in the work are encouraged to do so. And if that extends to going to their places of residence and dragging them forcibly through the doors of the practice facility, so be it.

One player who clearly has put in extra work is Juwan Staten, and he admits that might be something he has to do.

"I did do a lot on my own over the summer, and I get in the gym and watch film on my own," the Mountaineers' clear star said. "It pays off. Maybe it is the time that I need to go get some guys and make sure they get there."

This isn't a new thought -- Kevin Noreen said at the end of last year it's a tactic that he might resort to. He hasn't been available recently to answer a question on that topic, but there's no doubt that he and Staten have provided leadership by example. But with a season hanging in the balance, WVU has to get every bit of production it can from every player on the roster, and that's only going to happen if all members of the team are improving through the season.

As Huggins has also noted more than once, it's tough to improve while games are being played if work isn't being done individually. Much of practice is devoted to scouting reports, correcting mistakes and running through sets for upcoming contests. There's just not enough time for shooting, lifting and the like in the team practice periods. That's a lesson, though, that all of WVU's players haven't learned yet.

Terry Henderson, when asked about this, noted that he felt he was putting in the work required. As a sophomore, though, it's not clear if he felt as if he was in a position to impose his will on others to do so. Henderson's play on the floor certainly seems to show that he's been in the gym on his own, but if that's the case he also needs to be more forceful with others, no matter what class they are in.

It would be easy to get sidetracked into a discussion about whose responsibility it is to do what's required to get the Mountaineers back on a winning path, but that's not the issue. The important point is that it gets done -- and if it takes teammates to drag them to the facility, or coaches reducing playing time, then so be it.

West Virginia is dangerously close to going down the won-loss path it did a year ago, and there has already been enough missed time in the gym to put WVU in a hole in terms of wins and losses. Team leaders -- Staten, Noreen, or whoever -- have to take charge, and those that haven't been working extra must start doing so. Otherwise, the Mountaineers will be heading home again after the Big 12 tournament with no games left to play.

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