'All the bad is gone'

For stretches of the 2013-14 season, the West Virginia basketball team looked as if it was getting closer to becoming a team worthy of getting back in the NCAA tournament.

Then, for the second year in a row, a late-season collapse during the final few weeks left the Mountaineers on the outside looking in during the NCAA tournament for back-to-back years for the first time in a decade.

Roster turnover played a big role each year in those struggles, as it made it tougher for people to understand their roles. This season marked the third consecutive year that West Virginia lost at least 40 percent of its total scoring from the year before, thanks to the total loss of just five seniors - although there were no seniors on last year's team - and 10 transfers.

For those who have stuck around, including Kevin Noreen and Gary Browne, who played on the team that earned an NCAA tournament bid in 2012, and Juwan Staten, who sat out that season due to NCAA transfer rules but was still at WVU at the time, it's been a while since they were able to get to that stage. Their teammates are ready to get them back to that place.

"Just seeing everything those guys have had to go through the last couple of years is pretty bad," said forward Elijah Macon. "Everyone knows what we have to do this year, we're all on the same page, everybody is ready to step in and get it done."

And even though it's another year with a re-tooled roster, this season feels different for this Mountaineer team. With an added emphasis on the things it struggled with a year ago - mainly rebounding, defense and perimeter shooting - West Virginia has started to transform itself into more of a typical Bob Huggins-coached team.

Adding Macon and Jonathan Holton will improve the Mountaineers' play in the frontcourt, and WVU will also look to a group of five guards in its recruiting class to fill different roles to complement its veterans. There is more of a team mindset. No one is hoping to do things solely for themselves, it's more focused on what is best for the team.

This wasn't the case a year ago.

"There were some teammates that had some personal things they wanted to do that interfered with the team," Macon said after playing in the Pittsburgh Pro-Am Summer League last week. "That should never happen. But this is a whole new team.

"We got rid of the bad, all the bad is gone. We're ready to get back to basics and play as a team and win games."

A big thing WVU head coach Bob Huggins would say throughout last season was about how it's up to the older guys on the team to make the newcomers feel at home and introduce them into the Mountaineer family the right way. With the number of new guys entering the fold this summer, that emphasis is even more important.

And, so far, the Mountaineers who return are accepting that leadership role with no hesitation whatsoever in hopes that building that trust with one another now will help turn things around quickly when the season gets underway.

"It's really important. We have meetings about it before any new guys come in," Macon said. "As teammates, it's our job to greet everyone when they get here and make them feel at home, we have to get everyone on board. This is a family, this is all about the team.

"No more personal things, no more individual things, it's all about the team because we want to do some big things."

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