MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Head basketball coach Bob Huggins held a pre-season press conference this afternoon briefing the upcoming season.
Huggins kicked off the presser by saying he had a wonderful birthday (Sept. 21) spent doing absolutely nothing.
“I did absolutely nothing,” he said. “That’s exactly what I wanted to do.”
At the age of 62, Bob Huggins is heading into his 34th season as a head coach. Nine of those years have been spent leading the West Virginia Mountaineers.
The first topic Huggins went into was the loss of freshman James “Beetle” Bolden from Covington, Kentucky. Bolden, who was projected to play ample minutes this season, will take a medical redshirt this year after tearing an ACL during the off-season.
“He (Bolden) played really well in the Bahamas. I think we probably came in thinking that JC (Jevon Carter) was gonna be the point guard, or Tarik (Phillip), and Beetle played really well,” said Huggins.
“I think the thing we worried about with Beetle was just the physicality of college basketball, and him not being but about 160 pounds, you know, but he played against grown men and I thought he did a good job so it hurts us a little,” he added. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing for him to have another year to grow and mature.”
Huggins detailed the pre-season improvement of freshman Esa Ahmad and JUCO guard Teyvon Myers as well, claiming Ahmad is versatile enough to play the two, three or four position. He also said Myers has been struggling while adjusting to DI basketball, but remains confident in his abilities for the future.
Continuing the point guard conversation, Huggins reminded media members that the Mountaineers lost “a hell of a player,” in Juwan Staten, and another key component of the team in Gary Browne. However, he has confidence that Carter and Phillip can take over the reins with ease.
“He (Carter) and I have talked about that,” Huggins said regarding Carter’s shot being effected by playing the point. “He doesn’t think it will at all. I think last year, he was just a little overwhelmed. He had never really played there, you know, that was Juwan (Staten) and Gary (Browne). So, I think he’ll be fine. He’s been fine.”
Carter finished off his freshman season averaging over eight PPG and shooting .314 percent from three-point range.
As for the Mountaineers big man Devin Williams, Huggins says expectations for his junior season are huge. He also said the junior center has improved vastly, mostly in his passing game and ability to rebound.
“He was a go-to guy for us,” Huggins said about Williams, especially during the NCAA Tournament. “We threw him the ball when we needed baskets. Our guys had so much confidence in him getting us second shots and I don’t see why that would change.”
Huggins also stated that Williams is now in the best shape he’s been in since he arrived on campus.
“He seems to be a little bouncier than he was a year ago. He’s shooting the ball better, he’s bouncing it better, and more importantly, he’s passing the ball better,” he said. “He’s had a good summer in the weight room and you look at him and he’s not carrying around any extra weight. I think he’s really lean. This is the leanest he’s ever been.”
Williams ended last season averaging over 11 PPG and eight RBG.
Huggins also updated the status of his other big-men in Elijah Macon, Brandon Watkins and Nate Adrian.
As for Macon, Huggins says he injured his back last week. Although the back injury sounds minor, Huggins said Macon has also suffered from a sickness during the last week. Staying healthy will be Macon’s main priority as the season draws closer.
“He had a great summer until last week,” said Huggins. “He hurt his back and he was sick yesterday, so he’s just gotta stay healthy. That’s been a problem. He’s broken his wrist twice, so, if he stays healthy, he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in.”
Brandon Watkins’ injury status is still up in the air. According to Huggins, he isn’t sure if Watkins will take a medical redshirt, or if he’ll somehow be able to go at some point during the season.
Watkins was off-and-on throughout the 2014-15 season after injuring his knee. He underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Junior Nathan Adrian spent the off-season rehabbing an injured wrist that prevented the known sharpshooter from having the numbers he wanted last season.
“I didn’t know he was hurt until Kansas City,” he said. “He didn’t tell anybody. He obviously played through a lot of pain. Nate’s a tough guy. His thing now is that he’s not as long as everybody else. He compares himself to Holton, who is. Nate’s been extremely valuable.”
Adrian ended last season averaging below three PPG and .177 from three-point range compared to his freshman season where he averaged 5.4 PPG and .358 from the three.
Huggins added that Jonathon Holton has improved this off-season as well, mostly while working to stay out of foul trouble. His foul trouble kept him on the bench during a lot of significant games for the Mountaineers.
“He’s getting the ball up. He just shot it so flat,” Huggins said. “He’s getting the ball up over the rim now. He’s one of those guys when you talk about how we gotta get smarter and not get ourselves in foul trouble. He pretty much spent the year in foul trouble.”
Huggins finished off the Holton discussion by crediting him with being one of the most crucial guys on the floor during West Virginia’s infamous press on defense.
Overall, Huggins was positive about the upcoming season. However, when referring back to Press Virginia, he seemed a little uncertain whether or not one of the best defenses in the NCAA could be as successful for a second year in a row.
“I don’t know that we’ll get everything we got a year ago off the press,” he said. “We led the country in steals, we led the country in forced turnovers. We’re still gonna rebound, but yeah, we’re gonna have to make more shots.”
The Mountaineers ended last season as a Sweet 16 team with an overall record of 25-10. The team averaged 72.6 PPG, making .316 percent of their shots from three-point range and grabbing 1212 total rebounds.
West Virginia will begin official practices tomorrow, Oct. 2. According to Huggins, the Mountaineers will scrimmage Temple prior to the season beginning.
Cover image credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports