Final Four Notebook

Only days removed from the program's first Final Four appearance in more than a half-century, WVU men's basketball head coach Bob Huggins still is unsure whether he will have point guard Truck Bryant in the line-up for Saturday night's national semifinal against Duke.

Bryant, who was sent down to the Blue Devils' home town of Durham, N.C., to be fitted for a custom support that would reduce his chance to further injure the broken bone in his foot, was at the Coliseum on Tuesday but was not expected to practice, according to Huggins.

The third-year Mountaineer head coach re-emphasized that Bryant would have to practice if he hoped to play on Saturday night.

"We're not going to throw him out there without knowing what he's going to do," Huggins said. "I think it's a whole lot different walking or jogging on a treadmill than it is coming out here and cutting and doing the kind of things we have to do."

Bryant was not made available for interviews with media because, according to sports information director Bryan Messerly, "his status hasn't changed."

However, the sophomore guard was spotted on a pair of occasions in the tunnel area of the arena -- first, walking in with the aid of crutches; and, again, in athletic shoes, shorts and a jersey, walking towards the team's film room without his crutches.

Messerly emphasized that players typically wear those items when receiving treatment, whether they are set to practice or not.

  • Much like his Duke counterpart, Mike Krzyzewski, Huggins said there probably wouldn't be much worth gleaning out of the film of the teams' second round NCAA Tournament game from 2008 (a .

    Indeed, Huggins said he hadn't even taken the time to look at that game yet -- and said his recollection of the ins-and-outs of that Blue Devils squad was fuzzy, at best.

    "You guys think I can remember all that stuff," he quipped. "I remember when we lose. I don't remember when we win."

  • While the head coach's last trip to the Final Four was nearly two decades ago, he said he learned some valuable lessons he would apply to this go-round in the national semifinals.

    In fact, Huggins, who does not open any of his West Virginia practices to media or the public, said that policy was the direct result of mistakes he made back in 1992.

    "I didn't want to change anything because I didn't want them to get uptight," he recalled. "I was afraid if I started pulling back things, they would get uptight. We had open practices then."

    "We end up with 12,000 people in there. It's hard to practice with 12,000 people in there. It wasn't very smart on my part. You have to do some things (differently). And I probably, in trying to keep things normal, made things very abnormal. I think you just keep it as normal as you possibly can."

    Of course, that doesn't mean Huggins -- who already had done several national media interviews himself and had players like Da'Sean Butler, Kevin Jones and Joe Mazzulla doing one-on-ones for radio and television in recent days -- will completely lock his team away and not let anyone see them.

    In fact, he continues to think his players will be as jovial and loose as they have been thus far in the NCAA Tournament.

    "Everybody, I think, has been taken aback at how loose they've been at press conferences and so forth, because I told them I want them to have fun and enjoy the experience," said Huggins. "But they know when it's time to go to work, show up and go to work."

    "They're not used to having people around them 24/7. There's times to do it. We want to be very accommodating, but at the same time, we want them to be able to enjoy it. The last time was crazy, because everyone else had everybody on lockdown, and I didn't."

  • When asked whether all the publicity that comes with a Final Four run would help his recruiting efforts, Huggins expressed hope that it would.

    And while pieces have already been written by national scribes both praising and bemoaning his coaching style, Huggins said no player comes to WVU with any false sense of what his coach will be about.

    "They will tell you I'm brutally honest," he said. "I tell them that they're going to work harder here than they would anywhere else, and we're not going to cheat them. They get a pair of sneakers and a hard time. That's what they get."

    "I can't stand to watch guys not do their best. It kind of sets me off a little bit, and they know that. The truth is, we talk about not wasting days. When you come in and don't give it your all and really work at getting better, you waste a day. Why would you waste a day of your life? It doesn't make any sense."

  • While the story of Joe Mazzulla's recuperation from the devastating shoulder injury (and subsequent surgery) he endured early last season has been told repetitively since the junior starred in his team's Elite Eight win over Kentucky, it's easy to forget that Devin Ebanks has had his own issues to overcome.

    After missing the first few games of the season for personal reasons, he returned during the Mountaineers' run in the 76 Classic in Anaheim -- just in time to injure his hand while making a slam dunk.

    It wasn't discussed much, but Ebanks' shooting touch was effected by the pain -- and the wrap placed over the hand for several weeks afterwards. So he went about making sure he could contribute in other ways.

    "He had a hard time holding onto the ball," said Huggins, discussing the sophomore forward's injury.

    "But the thing about most of our guys is they do a lot of things. Devin, I think, became an outstanding defender. He's our leading rebounder and he's averaging 13 (points) and eight (rebounds) or something like that. That's not a bad year."

    As for Mazzulla, his recuperation was painfully cyclical. Just when it seemed his shoulder was fully recovered and his shots were falling with frequency in practice, he "relapsed" and "played two-thirds of the year with one arm," in Huggins' words.

    The junior guard recovered down the stretch of the regular season, but didn't truly return to being a major contributor after a much-discussed conversation with his head coach at halftime of the team's first game of the Big East Conference Tournament against Cincinnati.

    "He was really tentative," said Huggins. "That's part of the discussion he and I had at halftime of the Cincinnati game, that he needed to go back to being who he was."

    "It's kind of like, anybody who goes through something like that, everybody wants to tell you how careful you need to be. I think you still live your life."


  • BlueGoldNews Top Stories