Bob Huggins has the boys ready to play this year! The 2012 Mountaineer basketball season kicked off last night with the Gold and Blue Debut scrimmage. Huggins divided his squad into two teams- blue featuring mostly newcomers, and gold featuring mostly veterans.
The gold team won the scrimmage 94-80, led by the performances of senior center Deniz Kilicli and sophomore guard Jabarie Hinds. Kilicli had 26 points, going 9 of 14 from the field and 8 of 10 from the free throw line, and 9 rebounds. He connected on at least one of his famous hook shots as well and, at times, looked like the dominate inside force we all want him to be.
Hinds showed improvement over last year and was able to drive to the rim for points and connect from behind the 3 point arc. He finished up with 23 points (9-17 from the field, including 3-5 from 3), 3 assists, and 5 steals. Aaron Brown, Gary Brown, and Keaton Miles also scored in the double digits for the gold squad.
As good as the returners looked, the most encouraging thing I saw was the play of the newcomers on the blue squad, led by three transfers. Sophomore Juwan Staten sat out the 2011-2012 season after transferring from Dayton. He shined playing point guard for the blue team. He finished with 14 points, 8 assists, and only one turnover. He showed good command of the offense, good vision, and an ability to penetrate the defense to create looks for himself and others. He will be a big improvement over the departed Truck Bryant.
6-10 Junior transfer Aaric Murray (transferred from LaSalle and sat out the 2011-2012 season) also had a good game playing forward for the blue team. His size should enable him to get a lot of boards and put backs, and he looks to be a nice complement to Kilicli and Rutledge inside. Murray finished the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds. However, he also got into foul trouble and had 6 turnovers, so he’ll need to work on that aspect of the game.
Senior guard Matt Humphrey, transfer from Boston College (who also played for Oregon), led the blue team with 23 points. He stuck out to me as having the most surprising performance of the evening. I didn’t know much about him or expect much, but he had some explosive plays and looks like he could provide a spark as the first player off the bench, if he doesn’t start. I also look for freshman forward Terry Henderson, who contributed 15 points and 6 rebounds, to see minutes in the second half of the season.
Also of note, 6-10 sophomore Volodymyr Gerun, who transferred from the Ukraine, did not play due to questions about his eligibility.
Overall, the team looked a lot more refined than last year. The returners looked like they were more comfortable with the offense and confident in their abilities, and several new guys look like they could step in and contribute right away. The guard play, in particular, should be much better than we’ve seen in the past 4 years. Huggins has said he wanted the team to play with a little more speed in the Big 12, and they demonstrated that last night.
The biggest difference I see between this year and last year though is depth. Last year, seven players saw a majority of the minutes. This year, it’s easy to see 10 players getting significant minutes. I haven’t seen where Huggins has defined a starting lineup, but I’d predict the following:
C: Deniz Kilici
F: Aaric Murray
F: Aaron Brown*
G: Jabarie Hinds
G: Juwan Staten
*This is the one I have the least confidence in. I could see Humphrey or Gary Brown sliding in here as a 3rd guard.
In addition to the starters I list above, I expect Matt Humphrey, Gary Brown, Terry Henderson, Dominique Rutledge, Keaton Miles, and Volodymyr Gerun to see significant minutes at some point in the season. I think this will be huge for the Mountaineers. There won’t be as much dropoff when someone needs a rest or gets in foul trouble, and Huggins will be able to keep players fresh by subbing more players more often.
As Huggins said at the beginning of the scrimmage, if the Mountaineers are really the 6th best team in the Big 12, which is where we were picked, that must be one hell of a basketball league. I think we’ll do much better than that. This is probably the best team we’ve had under Huggins other than the Final Four team. I think the tough schedule we play early will make us one of the teams to beat in the Big 12. Huggins has the boys ready to play!
-For a complete recap of the Gold and Blue Debut, click here. Ignore the fact that they say the blue team won (the gold team won).
-The Mountaineers play an exhibition game against Glenville State on Nov. 6 before opening the season at midnight on November 13 at Gonzaga.