Tip Of The Iceberg

There is plenty of reason to celebrate both the present and the future of West Virginia basketball.

One year, one month and 12 days. That's all the time it took took for Bob Huggins to turn West Virginia's national recruiting perception completely on it's head.

At his April 6, 2007 introductory press conference as head coach at his alma mater, Huggins was asked by a reporter how difficult it would be to recruit the nation's top players to West Virginia.

Even with less than 24 hours under his belt as WVU head coach, Huggins wasn't buying it. And less than 14 months later, he's blown an age-old perception to bits.

When Scout.com's final 2008 team recruiting rankings are released, don't be surprised to see the Motown-bound quartet of Devin Ebanks, Roscoe Davis, Kevin Jones and Darryl "Truck" Bryant in or on the brink of the top ten.

For Huggins and his staff, the question wasn't if he would get players at WVU, it was when. At Cincinnati, he coaxed future NBA standouts such as Corie Blount, Danny Fortson, Nick Van Exel, Dermarr Johnson and Kenyon Martin to the Queen City. In a brief stay at Kansas State, he convinced the nation's number one player, Michael Beasley, to spend his one year of college halfway across the country from his Washington D.C. roots.

Assistant Billy Hahn recruited the likes of Joe Smith, Steve Francis, Lonny Baxter, Steve Blake and Juan Dixon to Maryland. Fellow staffer Larry Harrison brought in the nation's number one class in 1998 at DePaul.

Getting players has never been a problem for members of this staff. Neither was quickly bucking the perception that preceded them at WVU.

"You've got great facilities," Hahn told me last summer in an interview shortly after he joined the WVU staff. "You've got unbelievable educational opportunities. You can find just about any degree that you want. Educationally, it's a great institution. You've got a great campus, and you're going to come play for a great coach in Coach Huggins who is going to put players into the NBA. Tell me why it's hard to recruit here?

"I've always found that recruiting is very easy if you have a great product to sell, because then your heart can sell it," he continued. "And let me tell you something: I'm pretty excited because I've got a lot of things to sell here."

With that mentality, Huggins and his staff hit the road, bringing in Davis, Jones, and Bryant in the early signing period.

Of course few slam dunks are possible without a great assist, and in the case of the ultra-talented Ebanks, West Virginia got a pair of them. First, redshirt freshman Jacob Green transfered to Fordham over the semester break. Then, former Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson again found himself in hot water, resulting in his dismissal and ultimately leading to the re-opening of Ebanks' recruitment (he was originally an IU signee.)

In the end, Huggins and company held off Memphis, Texas and Rutgers to win the services of the long, lanky 6-foot-9 guard/forward with an arsenal of skills similar to those of rising NBA stars Rudy Gay and Kevin Durant.

There is no question that each of the four freshman will make an impact on the court for WVU at some point in the next few years. And there is little doubt that off the court, Huggins will continue to make waves in traditional recruiting hotbeds.

Bryant, Ebanks and Jones all hail from the New York City area. In plucking the trio away from so-called traditional powers as well as schools closer to home, Huggins has sent a message that the Mountaineers are now a serious contender for the city's up and coming hoops heroes. Heck, Huggins and his staff couldn't have left New York with this much loot if they had found themselves in the backseat of the Discovery Channel's popular "Cash Cab."

For now, Mountaineer fans are celebrating a class unparalleled in school history. With Huggs at the helm, however, classes such as these are likely to become the rule, not the exception.

Simply put, he's only just begun.


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