The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

February 18, 2013

Kilicli comes up big for WVU

Huggins’ patience with senior forward seems to be paying off

Bob Huggins has read the e-mails, heard the talk around the Coliseum and even opened the letters.

But West Virginia University’s sixth-year head basketball coach refused to listen to the calls from fans to give up on senior forward Deniz Kilicli.

“I’ve been very tempted to save all the letters I get from guys that know how to coach better than I do and know a lot more about Deniz than I know,” said Huggins. “Maybe we should just take a month and evaluate their job and what kind of work they’re doing. Then we can write them a letter about what kind of job they’re doing and what kind of job their employees are doing. In some of those cases, it would be how well they cook their french fries at McDonald’s. You can overcook those, you know.”

Fortunately for the coal mines, factories, schools and, of course, McDonald’s around the Mountain State, Huggins and his assistants aren’t likely to be walking around with clipboards taking notes anytime soon. Kilicli silenced the critics on his own.

In Saturday’s 66-64 win over Texas Tech, one that improved the Mountaineers’ record to 13-12 overall and 6-6 in Big 12 play, the WVU big man put on a show, scoring 25 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking a shot.

“Obviously, Deniz played very well,” said Huggins. “If we could pass the ball better, I think he could have got 40 (points). He did a great job of sealing, and I thought he was open quite a few more times than what we actually did get him the ball.”

Kilicli’s senior season hasn’t exactly been a storybook ending to his Mountaineer career. Expected to be a huge factor on this year’s team, the Istanbul, Turkey, native scored just 11 points in WVU’s first two games of the season and then went through a stretch in December where he scored only 16 points in five games, including being held scoreless in a couple of contests.

Kilicli’s minutes began to decrease, and he became an almost invisible part of the Mountaineer attack. As his production waned, the criticism mounted.

Recently, though, Kilicli has come on strong. He’s averaged 15 points per game over the last four contests, and he was quick to credit his coach for sticking by his side.

“Deniz and I have always had a good relationship,” said Huggins. “We had a good relationship when he didn’t speak English. I didn’t know what he was saying, but he’d always hug me. So I thought that was all right.

“He came in and we talked for about 25 minutes,” the coach continued of a recent visit. “At the end of the day, he’s not a quitter. Everybody gets frustrated. I may be at the head of the class when it comes to frustration, but he’s not a quitter.”

Huggins isn’t ready to take credit for Kilicli’s turnaround and start working as a psychologist on the side. He explained that the reason he stuck by his big senior is that he really didn’t have much of a choice.

“The truth of the matter is, in a lot of instances, how are we going to score without Deniz?” Huggins asked. “The other thing he does is he gets other people open, because (opponents) have to help. I think Eron Harris has been a recipient of having two guys have to guard (Deniz).

“The other thing that people don’t appreciate is that he’s our best guy at helping on ball screens. He’s our only big that can trap a ball screen. We ask him to do a whole lot of stuff.”

n n n

Kilicli and his teammates are still trying to get over the hump and win a game against one of the top teams in the Mountaineers’ new league. All six Big 12 wins that WVU has under its belt to this point have come against one of the three bottom teams in the conference — Texas, Texas Tech and TCU.

WVU will get a chance to change that tonight, though, when it plays its third Big Monday game of the season on the road against No. 10 Kansas State on ESPN. The game is scheduled for a 9 p.m. Eastern tip.

“We still think we have a shot at the NCAA Tournament,” said Kilicli, pointing out that his team will have three games against top 20 teams between now and the regular season finale on March 9. “We can do that. It’s just a matter of are we going to play the way we can play.”

Tonight’s game will mark Huggins’ return to Manhattan, Kan., where he served one season as the Wildcats’ head coach during the 2006-07 season.

His exit, to take the job at West Virginia, his alma mater, caused some hard feelings, but Huggins was well received by the Wildcat fans last year when his Mountaineers played KSU in Wichita, a double-overtime 85-80 Mountaineer victory.

The veteran coach isn’t sure what type of reception he’ll get tonight.

“If I had a list of 100 things to worry about, that might be 112,” said Huggins after Saturday’s victory. “I’ve got one day to get ready for a pretty good team so I can make sure I give our guys the resources to try to win.

“If they don’t (treat me well), they don’t. What am I going to do? The truth of the matter is, I’ve been gone for six years now. Unless those guys are on Jay Jacobs’ plan of graduation, they’re probably gone,” he concluded, throwing in a jab at WVU’s color analyst.

This will be the second meeting between WVU and KSU this season. The teams met at the WVU Coliseum on Jan. 12, when the Mountaineers blew a late lead and allowed the Wildcats to escape with a 65-64 victory.

— E-mail: chuffman@

register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at CamHuffmanRH.

1
Text Only
Latest Sports
  • Clark makes voice heard in return to Redskins

    Ryan Clark has been a showman, entertainer, spokesman, pontificator, critic, leader, mentor and fashionista — and that's just from one week of Washington Redskins training camp.

    August 1, 2014

  • Steelers WR Antonio Brown aims for repeat of 2013
    Antonio Brown rolled up to the dorms at Saint Vincent College last week in a Mercedes conversion van. It's fitting in a way. Five years into a blossoming career, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver is playing the role of dad — OK, maybe slightly older brother — to a group long on talent but short on experience.

    August 1, 2014

  • Steelers sign K Suisham through 2018 season
    The Pittsburgh Steelers have given kicker Shaun Suisham a four-year contract extension that runs through the 2018 season.

    August 1, 2014

  • RH 080114saints1.jpg Intensity reaches new level at Saints training camp

    Following their first day off from training camp on Wednesday, the New Orleans Saints reported to their new $30 million practice facility at The Greenbrier Thursday full of energy and with an edge that hadn’t been seen through the first five practices.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Holliday.jpg Backup quarterback battle one to watch at Marshall

    Marshall has a pretty decent quarterback in Rakeem Cato, a Heisman Trophy candidate who is expected to lead the Thundering Herd to its most successful season in more than a decade.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • New Orleans practices bring back memories for Haas

    Bob Haas stood back away from the field Thursday, watching the action at the New Orleans Saints Greenbrier training camp intently but avoiding getting too close.

    August 1, 2014

  • Holgorsen: ‘The guys were pretty fired up’

    West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen said everybody in the country has a good first practice, but after his Mountaineers hit the field for the first time Thursday, he was glad he wasn’t focused on negatives.

    August 1, 2014

  • Wilson out indefinitely after Tuesday's injury

    Current New York Giants and former Virginia Tech running back David Wilson will not practice for the rest of the week and is out for Sunday's Hall of Fame game after suffering what the team called a "burner" in practice on Tuesday

    July 31, 2014

  • Steelers speedy rookie LB Shazier making quick impression

    The 15th overall pick in the draft is drawing raves from his teammates for his quickness and his coaches for his smarts.

    July 31, 2014

  • Less zone-read for RG3 under Redskins coach Gruden

    Robert Griffin III faked the handoff to Alfred Morris and took off down the left sideline, showing the burst of speed that helped him become the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. 

    July 31, 2014

Saints Training Camp