Finding His Coach

Theres's no doubt that getting head Coach Bob Huggins helped the Mountaineers with their recruiting, but it isn't likely that anyone knew it was going to help quite as much as it did. Freshman forward Dan Jennings wasn't sure where Huggins would be coaching when it came time for him to pick a school but he knew one thing – Jennings would be wherever Huggins was.

"The year after I played at Oak Hill Academy, I started looking up Coach Huggins," said Jennings. "I just researched him because he had sent a lot of power forwards to the pros, a lot of underrated power forwards."

Jennings' research soon returned dividends. After Huggins was hired at West Virginia, he immediately began looking to fill out his front line with the sort of tough, physical players that highlighted his best teams at Cincinnati. Jennings certainly fit that bill, so an invite to WVU's campus was soon set up.

"The summer after my year at Oak Hill, [Coach Huggins] started contacting me," said Jennings. "He called me and talked to my mother and invited me down for a visit and I loved it. I felt at home. I knew Devin [Ebanks], Truck [Bryant], and Kevin [Jones] from New York City so I felt comfortable playing with them."

In fact, before coming to West Virginia, Jennings had already been on a team with both Ebanks and Bryant in the past. Jennings and Ebanks played together for two years in high school at Bishop Loughlin, and he also played with Bryant on the New York Gauchos, long an AAU power in the New York metro area.

"[Ebanks] was always good," said Jennings of West Virginia's rising star. "He was always a good dribbler and a good shot. He really played hard."

Since arriving in Morgantown this summer, the self-described defensive player has been working on building his strength to prepare for his debut in the infamously physical Big East conference. Currently weighing in at 260 pounds, Jennings says he's already gained 10 pounds of muscle and seen some pretty big changes in his physique.

"Since I came to West Virginia, I have been working with Andy Kettler, who is a great strength coach and he's been teaching me how to put on weight," said Jennings. "Not weight in a bad way but in a strong way. I have been gaining muscle constantly since I got here."

Although the freshman obviously has a lot to learn, he recognizes that his physical playing style and build could help him to see some playing time early in the season. West Virginia, after playing at a physical disadvantage up front over the past few Big East season, now has at least the bodies, if not quite yet the experience, to push back when it gets shoved.

"I feel that if I learn the plays and if I listen to Coach Huggins and just be patient that I will be able to be an impact from the start," said Jennings. "I've been learning the offensive things like the five by motion. I have been learning how to be patient on offense and defense. I've been learning how to condition and just to play hard every second of the game."

Work certainly doesn't seem to be a problem for Jennings, who was hitting the weights and playing in every available second over the summer. He's also approached his team with a defined role in mind that fits his current skills. Whereas some newcomers hope to have a big impact on the offense, that is not where Jennings is hoping to leave his mark. In, fact he says he is just hoping to get a few offensive touches per game.

"I like to pound in the post," said Jennings. "I like to box out. I like to rebound because when you do all of those things, it opens up the offense so everybody else can score. If you give me two dunks a game then I'll be happy. All I want to do when I get on the floor is rebound and block shots. The offense will come."

Along with Deniz Kilicli and Wellington Smith, West Virginia might finally have the inside presence that Huggins has been looking for. And at least part of it is due to the fact that Jennings came looking for him first.

Mountaineers Daily Top Stories