Who are These Guys?

The truest definition of a player, a true player, is one that makes color analyst Jay Jacobs yell over top the play-by-play. Jonathan Hargett did it by the third game.

The guy dribbles off his elbow and flashes a fake pass that looks so good opposing players take the bait like hungry bass. They are hooked then, and the play is over.

Drew Schifino, rumored to be a slashing scorer, set a school-record with 11 steals last game. He has proven to be WVU's offensive catalyst with his defense.

The rest are supporting cast. Tyrone Sally, a top 40 power forward, merely plays his game, even if that's averaging 10.3 points and two assists and running the floor like few Mountaineer big men have.

Chaz Briggs is the rebounder, or hopes to be. He's athletic, and that gap-toothed grin, for some reason, just fits.

Chris Garnett is the sophomore. It's his second season in the program, so he's the odd man out, like Shemp, of the Three Stooges. But, at 6-10, 255 pounds, bigger, and more valuable.

In reality, all the newcomers have given this West Virginia team more depth, athleticism, potential, confidence, and a million other things past Mountaineer squads did not have.

The Mountaineers are simply better because of their ability than in past years, and it is not because of the veterans, thought they are the key, providing leadership and knowledge of past seasons and situations.

But it's these freshmen...

Head coach Gale Catlett, who often lauds his players as being able to "whip anybody" said watching this team is like watching the Harlem Globetrotters. He might not be far off.

He has been smart enough to let these guys play a different brand of basketball, one not seen at the WVU Coliseum since the 1950s and 60s. And that was below the rim.

The 1980s Mountaineers might have been good, but they did not have this innate ability to create their own shots, to play how they want, when they want, and to make it look so darn easy.

It's poetry really, these no-look passes, tomahawk dunks and pickpocket steals.

"You never know what will happen," center John Oliver, who is in awe as much as the fans are, said. "I look away, and Hargett throws a no-look pass or Drew Schifino one-hand dunks or something. You just can't take your eyes off the court."

Those no-look dishes add up to one assist, the aerial, double-reverse dunks, with a triple axel thrown in, are only tallied as two points, sure. But they are worth so much more.

The student section? Word is they are showing to watch these guys, players younger than most of them, who force anticipation of excitement. One simply waits for their next play. It's coming. It's a matter of when.

These students might even stick around for the Dec. 15 game versus Robert Morris. Heck, die hards are considering making the drive back to Morgantown to watch the Blue and Gold battle Duquesne. It should give WVU a home court advantage, at least in terms of numbers, they have not seen in mid-December before.

Thus far they have been perfect, at 4-0. They went into The Pit, a legendary arena known for its historical games and rowdy crowds, and beat the Lobos. Dominated the game, really, according to Catlett. They put away Southern Miss and manhandled the other two teams, complete with the expected pizzazz.

As a fan, which sportswriters -- the good ones anyway -- are, you feel like you know them. You know the moves, have seen them and tried to describe them. Words, monolithic, flattering, maybe inflated, come to mind, but you're not sure just how much praise these kids deserve.

Who are they? They can't talk, courtesy of a gag order by Catlett, which makes them a bigger enigma.

They own just one quality victory: New Mexico. The rest of the squads are also-rans. Monticello was a joke even Marshall got. Southern Miss looks worse every game. Yet we are ready to anoint them as the newest saviors that have come to raise WVU basketball out of the ashes.

"These guys are cocky, confident," Catlett said. "They come out here and try and show each other up. They know they can play."

Better hope so. West Virginia won't get its first real test until Dec. 22 at Tennessee, although the James Madison road test on Wednesday should provide a good pop quiz.

Tennessee is a blood game, a team the Mountaineers owe. If these guys exorcise those demons, they can talk. Right now they're still tuning up, though they've shown the perfect pitch thus far.

Let's hope it's not just an empty sale.

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