Freshmen Needed Leadership

In a year when the WVU cagers were expected to do great things because of its returning nucleus and incoming freshmen, reality has set in like a cold Alaskan snowstorm.

Freshman Jonathan Hargett has been at the forefront of a lot of criticism for this season's woes. And as the season has gone along, some of the criticism he has deftly earned. Tossing alley oops off the backboard at this point of the season would earn criticism from even New York playground legends.

I would like to make a comparison to someone. Jason Williams. Not the Jason Williams from DuPont High who is currently toiling for the Memphis Grizzlies. The Jason Williams from Duke who is the leading candidate for NCAA player of the year. It was said last year that Hargett has played with Williams, and, according to reports, Hargett was as good.

That sure seems like a pretty far fetched statement at this point. But I would like to point out some similarities to Hargett as a frosh, and Williams as a frosh. I was watching ESPN Classic the other night, and they actually had a story on Jason Williams. Why a college ballplayer, who is still in college, merits a Sports Century Classic story is beyond me, but the story was actually pretty interesting.

It seems that Jason was supposed to come to school and learn for a year as William Avery started his senior year. But, alas, Mr. Avery opted to go the NBA route. Now Jason Williams was going to start at Duke as a true freshman. No freshman had started at point for Duke since Bobby Hurley.

They played their opening two games in this small gym in New York called The Garden. And all Williams did was stink up the joint, shoot less than 30% from the field, and Duke lost its first two games for the first time in some ten years. He was described as too flashy. He tried to force passes. He tried to do too much. He made poor decisions.

Well. Hargett came to WVU with much fanfare. Tim Lyles was just an afterthought to most fans when Jonathan signed. But then Lyles blew out his knee, and the margin of error was erased for the budding superstar.

The difference?

Jason Williams had Shane Battier. Jason Williams had a senior leader who grabbed him by the throat and dragged him into college basketball reality. The seniors on that team forced the freshman diaper dandy to understand the college game, and by the end of the year, Williams was more than solid. He also had something else. Duke wasn't going to lose 17 games with him or without him.

Jonathan Hargett has Chris Moss, John Oliver and Lionel Armstead. Armstead's leadership skills have gotten what looks to be a career ending suspension. And Moss, while his game, and his mental toughness have grown tremendously since he came to Morgantown, has shown little leadership.

In fact, in many interviews this year, the older players on the team consistently made reference to reasons why they were losing, and placing blame on other players, without naming them.

Hargett has also come in on the back end of three straight years of the worst recruiting in WVU basketball history. Non-qualifiers, junior college players who didn't graduate, players who transferred and players who have been suspended for numerous offenses, including fighting, spitting, missing the team bus, showing up late for practice and worse.

The senior captain's role is to get your team in line. This team has lacked leadership all season. Whether it be from the head coach, the assistant coaches, or the players. There has been nobody to teach the young kids the right path. The coaches can't do it all. And when a coach is ill, his captains are supposed to right the ship.

So these freshmen have had to learn the hard way that they can't take over a game just because they want to. They are having to learn the hard way that discipline, heart, hustle and defense wins ballgames.

This team has lost to teams they should have beaten by 10 or 15 points. And they have looked abysmal doing it. This team would not win the WVIAC this season.

Maybe the freshmen wouldn't listen. Maybe their heads are so far in the clouds that they felt no need to listen to a coach with over 500 wins, or the leaders from a team who got stomped by Richmond in the NIT, who have lost to Duquesne three out of four years.

If that is the case, they are in for a rude awakening if Bob Huggins shocks the nation and takes the job.

So when you watch WVU's next game, and you see Hargett make up his mind to shoot before he crosses midcourt, or you see Sally throw a lazy pass into the press, or you see Schifino drive too far into traffic, understand, there hasn't been any leadership this year.

There are no Calvin Bowmans, or Marcus Gorees, Damien Owenses, Darryl Prues, Chris Brookses, Brent Solheims, Adrian Pledgers, or Jerrod Wests.

No inside presence to help Moss, no senior leadership to push the freshmen, no depth to bench them when they play poorly, and no wins since Santa.

What happened to the team I saw beat Tennessee?

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