Ties and Binds

College basketball recruiting is perhaps based more on relationships than any other sport's, and those were certainly a big factor in Dan Jennings' commitment to West Virginia.

As he has demonstrated time and again over his career, WVU head coach Bob Huggins is a master at relating to players and developing ties that result in commitments. That was again a major factor recently as Dan Jennings pledged his college time to the Mountaineers.

"Coach Huggins is great," Jennings said between workouts in preparation for his post-graduate year at either South Kent or St. Thomas More. "He has developed a lot of players over the years, and he pushes you to the limit. I know that he will do that with me. It will be tough, but I know he is doing it to get the most out of me that I can be. He wants to help guys succeed not just in college, but also on the next level. That's my goal, and I know he can help me get there."

In case there was any lingering doubt as to Huggins' ability to work his magic at West Virginia as he did at Cincinnati, the development of Joe Alexander in just one short season laid those to rest. That process had an impact on Jennings, who saw it happening (and was certainly reminded of it during the recruiting process).

"Going into last year, I hadn't heard a lot about Joe Alexander," he admitted. "It wasn't like he was high on the NBA's list or anything. And then in just one year under Huggins, he blew up. Coach Huggins told me that he just needed to work the right way, and work on the things that he told him to, and that he would succeed. And when he did that, he took off. That was definitely a big factor in my decision. I could see that Coach Huggins helped him develop, and that was in a short time. With four years under him, I could go a long way."

Jennings also forged a bond with assistant coach Larry Harrison, who is a banner recruiter in his own right.

"Coach Harrison is a really good guy. He was the first person to talk to me about West Virginia and explain everything they are doing there. He talks about their plan to build a national championship team, and he said I could be part of that building process."

Of course, Jennings had other ties and benefits that helped him land a spot in the Big East. His AAU team, the New York Gauchos, is a longtime power on the summer circuit, and helps expose players to a multitude of recruiters. Playing with talented players alongside helps too.

"I played with Darryl Bryant on the Gauchos last year, and I played against Devin Ebanks," Jennings said. Those guys are great players. I talked with them some, and they had great things to say. With Truck at the point and Ebanks playing pretty much anywhere on the court, I can go inside and we can be a great team."

Jennings, who speaks excitedly about his future, is working out his final plans for his prep year. He may play in one more AAU tournament in Florida this summer, and then will take a trip to Connecticut to check out South Kent and St. Thomas More to decide on his prep school for the coming season. After that, it will be on to West Virginia for his collegiate career.

Jennings looks forward to that, and also to the opportunity that Huggins can provide, but understands that it's up to him to take advantage of it. He expressed that chance with a unique turn of phrase.

"Coach Huggins said that they can present us the food," he said of his opportunity, "but we have to eat it."


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