Huggins Q and A

Bob Huggins, just back from the west coast, held a preseason conference call on Thursday afternoon. Here's a look at his comments on players, the upcoming season and the continued development and transition of the 2007-08 Mountaineers.

Opening statement: "I don't know that I have much of an opening statement other than to say that I am excited about having more than two hours per week (with preseason practices starting Friday). The guys have been terrific. I am looking forward to getting started."

On what players have stood out: "I think Joe Mazzulla is pretty tough and pretty competitive. He has probably stood out. I think we have had a couple guys, but Joe has stood out as being competitive."

On the players making gains in weight and strength: "They have all gained strength, and most of them have gained weight. When you gain muscle mass, you will gain some weight. Probably Joe Alexander made the biggest gain."

On taking advantage of using a smaller line-up: "We don't really have a choice. We are just not very big. I have always felt like they have to guard us, too. So if we can take bigger people that we play and bring them away from the basket, we can be effective that way. Really, as small as we are, I am more concerned about not having a lot of depth, particularly on the front line."

On what role point guard Darris Nichols will play in the new system: "We are going to give Darris the ball. He will be in charge of running things for us. The biggest thing for him defensively is he will be at the point rather than being at the basket in the 1-3-1. He is going to start everything offensively and defensively."

What are your top concerns and what are things you have found in those limited drills: "My biggest concern is lack of depth on the front line. I think it is even more of a concern in that a lot of guys that are going to play are not all that experienced. You have a tendency to make some dumb fouls and put yourself in a position you would not later on in your career. I like the guys' attitudes. By and large they have been pretty good. Some have to compete harder, but all have made strides in that regard. We have a lot of young kids. When you look, John (Beilein, WVU's former coach) recruited seven guys in last year's freshman class. We have two seniors and two juniors. The majority are young guys."

On if WVU, because of the lack of interior depth, will showcase a three-guard look: "That all depends, for instance, on if (6-9, 220-pound forward) Jacob Green and (freshman 6-7, 195-pound forward) John Flowers can make strides. If not, then we will probably play a whole lot smaller. Alex Ruoff is not a great athlete, but he has great strength and knows what he needs to do. We can play Alex at small forward some. Now, not all the time, but I think we can get away with it some. I think he can keep his guy from rebounding the ball. We don't really have fives (true centers). If you look historically at our teams, we don't have fives. We have power forwards, but not fives."

On rebounding being a major aspect of his philosophy: "I have always thought you are not always going to shoot it well, but you can always rebound and always defend. In a lot of instances, you win a lot of games that you would not have if you didn't rebound or guard so well. Rebounding gives you second opportunities to win and second opportunities for offense. Teams that win consistently are teams that get easier shots than their opponent gets. You can do that a variety of ways: by rebounding, by defense and by not turning it over. I think you have to get to the foul line as well."

On how long the dunk contest will last, considering none of the players are yet considered major dunkers: "One year ago we practiced before the dunk contest at Kansas State and their legs were so shot, only one guy could dunk. We will not do that this year. I think you will enjoy the dunk contest."

On installing the man-to-man defense with players used to zone sets: "What's hard about this year is that you're teaching everybody for the first time. A year from now we will have guys who are more proficient that can help us. Now it is everybody. It is philosophy and terminology and footwork. We got to kind of change and get better at it. What has been good to this point is that they want to.

"We are going to attempt to play a little faster. When we stated doing transition drills they did not do them well. They have made strides and it's like anything else. It's a matter of repetition. You would be shocked at how they threw the ball away and other things uncharacteristic of those guys, but it is a change. It's not what they are used to doing. You gotta be a fool to think that Darris Nichols could not play fast and play fast well. We have a lot of guys that can do that. It's a matter of repetition until we get proficient."

On freshmen Will Thomas and John Flowers: "John has been good. John is really athletic. I think he has been good. Will's athleticism is not what it was before he broke his leg. It will take some time before Will gets back to where he was, though he has made good strides from day one until now. That is a tough thing to come back from. (Redshirting) depends upon how he can help us. Will is really long. Once he learns what he needs to do, he can be a pretty good defender."

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