By Cam Huffman
Deniz Kilicli wrote the 2012-13 West Virginia University basketball season off as one of the worst experiences of his career and is moving on, trying to block out his senior season and remember, instead, the three NCAA Tournament trips the Mountaineers took during his first three seasons.
Jabarie Hinds, Aaron Brown and Volodymyr Gerun simply walked away, deciding to consider transfer options instead of returning to WVU.
Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, can’t wait to get started again.
The season that ended a little more than a month ago with a 13-19 record and a loss to Texas Tech in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament was the worst in WVU head coach Bob Huggins’ career and a shock to Mountaineer fans that had watched his teams advance to the NCAA Tournament in each of the coach’s first five seasons back at his alma mater.
But while it caused many to simply give up, it only served as motivation for Harris and Henderson, who showed major potential as freshmen last season.
“I can’t wait for the season to get here,” said Henderson, who was in Beckley on Saturday to watch four WVU signees — Devin Williams, Brandon Watkins, Nathan Adrian and Elijah Macon, as well as walk-on Chase Connor — play in the Scott Brown Memorial Classic. “I just want to skip this whole summer process and get straight to Midnight Madness. But we’ve got a lot to do and a lot to learn.”
Much of the learning process, Harris said, has nothing to do with dribbling, passing or shooting.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with basketball,” he said. “It’s becoming an all-around person and doing the right things when nobody’s looking. It’s going to class on time, going to study hall on time and things like that.”
As always, it’s also about getting bigger, faster and stronger. Harris, who averaged 9.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and an assist per game as a freshman, played at about 185 pounds this season. The 6-foot-2 guard hopes to get up to 195 or 200 before the start of his sophomore season.
Henderson, a 6-foot-3 guard from Raleigh, N.C., averaged eight points and 2.4 rebounds as a freshman, and he said he learned some important lessons in between the moments of frustration.
“There are no days off,” he said. “You get what you put in, and that’s one of the main things we go by.”
Whether the 2013-14 Mountaineers will find better results is still an unknown, but they’ll certainly look different. With Kilicli, Hinds, Brown, Gerun and Matt Humphrey all gone, the incoming freshmen are sure to get a shot to contribute, and Henderson believes that’s nothing but a positive.
“They’re young guys with energy, and you can’t ask for more than that,” he said. “I’ve seen them play a lot, and they all play hard. They rebound the ball, they can score and they can do it all.
“We’ve all been messaging each other on Twitter and texting and stuff. I can’t wait to get them up to Morgantown.”
“I think they’re exactly what we need,” added Harris. “Devin Williams is really going to bang in there and get some boards for us, and we’ve got some athletic big guys that when (strength coach) Andy Kettler gets a hold of them, they’re going to be mean.”
Williams led all scorers at the Scott Brown Memorial Classic, earning MVP honors with 24 points and 15 rebounds. Macon scored 21 points and grabbed 10 boards, while Adrian scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. Watkins scored 10 points to go along with six boards, and Connor scored nine points and a 3-for-4 night from 3-point range.
“It’s going to be an exciting team,” said Henderson. “I can promise you that.”