Encouraging Early Returns

West Virginia plays host to St. John's tonight inside the WVU Coliseum. The contest will mark the first game in uniform for the newest member of the Mountaineer men's basketball team.

How appropriate. On the night the Mountaineer football team is slated to be honored at halftime for their Fiesta Bowl championship season, backup quarterback Jarrett Brown will be spending the 20 minutes before and after halftime suiting up for Bob Huggins, trading his his familiar No. 16 football jersey for a basketball uniform sporting No. 31.

Brown donned a pair of gray WVU sweats as he sat on the bench to watch Sunday's 81-61 win over Syracuse, and began practicing with the team on Tuesday following a scheduled day off on Monday. Despite not playing competitive basketball for nearly three years, Brown left quite an impression on his new team after just one day of workouts.

"He's athletic, and he's got really good basketball skills," said Huggins, who has had success in the past getting quality minutes from football players during his stint at Cincinnati. "He's got a lot better basketball skills than I thought he would have. He shot the ball well, and he handles the ball well. He's got athleticism and great strength, we've just got to teach him what we want him to do."

For at least tonight's game, it's probably unrealistic to expect Brown to provide anything short of mop up minutes. After all, the guy hasn't even been part of the team for a full week. Rest assured, though, that there will be a time when Brown is called upon to contribute valuable minutes off of what has been a very short Mountaineer bench as Huggins has used just an eight-man rotation since the beginning of Big East play.

"I don't think there's any question he's going to get an opportunity," Huggins said. "It's just that there is so much to learn, and he's not in basketball condition. He'd be the first one to tell you that."

Sophomore forward Da'Sean Butler can attest to that.

"He was joking around with us a lot because he got kind of tired," Butler said with a laugh. "He needed an oxygen tank or something."

All kidding aside, Butler had nothing but good things to say about his new teammate.

"He's very quick," Butler said. "He's a lot quicker than I was thinking he was. He did an excellent job. We just need to keep getting that practice out of him, and get him ready to play."

Brown's hardcourt efforts as a standout at Palm Beach Lakes (Fla.) High School were well-documented. In addition to his exploits on the gridiron which had West Virginia and a slew of other BCS schools courting him to be their quarterback of the future, the big righty was also a Division I prospect in basketball. As a senior, Brown led his team to an upset win over South Gwinnett (Ga.) High School in a Florida tournament. The Georgia team was led by current Philadelphia 76ers standout Louis Williams.

Brown's 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame will give the Mountaineers some added size off the bench. In addition to the girth, he brings a solid set of skills according to Butler.

"He can do a little bit of everything. I like that. He can handle the ball really well, and shoot it well," Butler said. "He has a little bit of everything, and that's kind of the player that we need right now.

"To me, just watching him, all he needs is to get caught up to the things we're doing as far as our offense and doing what we're doing on defense. Once we get him ready, he should be fine."

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