The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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College Sports

June 17, 2014

Huggins hopes WVU learned from Spurs

Over the last decade or longer, the National Basketball Association has developed a reputation as a me-first league with little defense and plenty of one-on-one action. The only real sense of team, many believe, has been the name on the jersey and the fans in the stands.

That style of basketball, many coaches say, has slowly trickled down to the college game, where players are playing for themselves with no thought of the other four guys on the floor wearing the same colors.

But the San Antonio Spurs, who wrapped up an NBA title with a series victory over the Miami Heat in just five games Sunday, were not the typical NBA team. Gregg Popovich’s club played defense. It shared the basketball, and the guys who hoisted the trophy at the end of the season were a group that had been together and fought together, instead of just a group of stars thrown on the floor to sell tickets.

West Virginia University head coach Bob Huggins hopes his players were paying attention.

“I think that’s the hope of all of us, that we could get back to trying to play the game the right way,” said the veteran coach during Tuesday’s Big 12 Conference summer teleconference. “Certainly the Spurs did that. It’s more than just passing and sharing the ball. It’s their overall team attitude.

“All of us hope that we continue to foster an attitude that it’s team first. I think we’ve all had teams where that was the case, and we’ve all had teams where that wasn’t the case. It’s certainly a whole lot more fun to coach, a whole lot more fun to play and a whole lot more fun to watch when people do play the game the right way.”

It will also be key to the Mountaineers’ success during the 2014-15 season. After losing two of its top point producers — Eron Harris and Terry Henderson — to transfer, the WVU roster will be filled with new faces like big men Jonathan Holton and Elijah Macon, who sat out last season because of eligibility issues, and incoming recruits Billydee Williams, Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles, Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip.

“We hope we have more guys who can bounce it into the lane and make plays,” said Huggins. “With Elijah and Jonathan, we’ll get guys who can also score it with their backs to the basket. I think we’ll be able to put more pressure on the defense, but we’ll have to make perimeter shots to open that up. I think we can do that. I’m happy with the people we were able to get at a late date.”

Now its just about finding chemistry.

“I think we’re going to get better and better as the season goes on,” said Huggins. “We have to have a selfless attitude that the good teams have. But I don’t have any indication at this point in time that’s not going to happen.”

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Tournament officials announced the matchups for the 2014 Preseason WNIT Tuesday, and West Virginia, coming off a record-setting 30-5 season, will be included in the field.

Mike Carey’s club will open up play on the second day of the tournament, Nov. 15, at home against against Eastern Kentucky. Nine of the 16 teams in the field are coming off a postseason appearance, including five that went to the NCAA Tournament. Mississippi State, Penn State, Seton Hall and Colorado are among the other power conference teams in the field.

The second round of the tournament will be played Nov. 16-17, with the semifinals on Nov. 20. The championship will be played on Nov. 23 on CBS Sports Network.

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WVU graduate Mike Barwis, who was the Mountaineers’ football strength and conditioning coach under Rich Rodriguez, as well as working with many Olympic sport athletes in Morgantown, will be the star of a new reality show on the Discovery Channel.

“American Muscle” will premier July 9 at 9 p.m. and will feature Barwis, considered one of the best strength training coaches in America, working at his Barwis Methods training Center with everyone from NFL players, to bull riders, to paraplegics looking to walk again.

Among the professional athletes included will be Richard Sherman (Seattle Seahawks), Nick Swisher (Cleveland Indians), Rashad Evans (UFC), Ndamukong Suh (Detroit Lions), DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers), Pierre Garcon (Washington Redskins), Shawne Merriman (former NFL player), Baron Davis (former NBA player) and others.

Barwis, a high-energy 40-year-old Philadelphia native, has an undergraduate degree in exercise physiology from WVU and a master’s degree in athletic coaching. He worked at WVU for 14 years, leaving in 2007 to join Rich Rodriguez at the University of Michigan.

— E-mail: chuffman and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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