The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 22, 2013

Is recruiting WVU’s problem?

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University men’s basketball team (8-9, 1-3 Big 12) is headed for the school’s worst record since 2001-02.

It was so pitiful in last Saturday’s 79-52 blowout at Purdue (10-8, 3-2 Big 10) that coach Bob Huggins called it “totally unacceptable” in his postgame radio interview.

What’s more, he apologized to WVU fans and to the people of the state of West Virginia.

With few exceptions, the Mountaineers have lacked consistency and the season is more than half gone. And all of the remaining 14 games are in the Big 12 Conference.

Huggins has tried a variety of changes and twists to put this team on a winning track. But little seems to work.

He doesn’t think his players perform hard enough competitively. He hints strongly that they don’t grasp what they’re told to do at times.

It is not what you can call a good shooting team. Defense is good, but at times there are lapses.

Huggins certainly is a great coach. He ranks No. 3 among the nation’s active winningest mentors.

Meantime, there are some observers who question West Virginia’s recent recruiting classes. They think that’s a problem.

I don’t know. I’m most certainly not a coach. But one critic said, “I’ve been blaming the recruiting all along.”

Poor shooting admittedly has been a problem. WVU shot only 29 percent from the field (17 of 58) against Purdue, which made 49.2 percent of its field goal attempts (29 of 59).

The Boilermakers had four scorers in double figures (17, 16, 11, 10). West Virginia’s only one was Eron Harris, with just 10 points.

The Mountaineers did connect on 15 of 20 free throws, but were outrebounded 44-34 and committed 17 turnovers.

“I never saw this coming,” Huggins said. “I honestly didn’t.”

Last year’s record was 19-14 and 9-9 in the Big East.

“We will be better this year, a lot better,” the veteran coach told me last fall.

The Mountaineers return home to play TCU (9-9, 0-5 Big 12) Wednesday night and they visit Oklahoma State (12-4, 2-2) on Saturday.

Following the loss at Purdue, Huggins said, “I’ve never had a guy in my (31-year) career that wouldn’t compete. Our shooting was terrible. It shouldn’t stop us from rebounding.

“And we threw the ball away. We turned the ball over to them. All I’m asking them to do is block out on rebounds. And we make stupid fouls.”

He told the squad that he was going out to the broadcast crew to apologize to WVU fans and West Virginia residents “that this is totally unacceptable.

“This is not what we are supposed to represent.”

Huggins expressed hope that those who support his program have enough faith in him that he’ll fix the problems eventually.

“I don’t know that I can this year, but we will fix it.

“That was as worthless an effort as anyone could possibly give.

“I saw things that were unexplainable. Unexplainable.”