Huggins Talks Opt Outs, Team Chemistry + Extra Eligibility
Over the last several months, West Virginia men's head basketball coach Bob Huggins and his players have been itching to get back on the floor after seeing the 2019-20 season come to an abrupt end with the pandemic canceling the Big 12 conference tournament and NCAA Tournament.
After roughly a week of practice in preparation for the new season, Huggins has been very pleased with what he has seen thus far.
"I don't have much not to like right now, they've been good. They're working hard, they're paying attention, they're trying to do what we ask them to do. We've kind of thrown a lot at them early just to see how they would react to different things and they've been real good."
The Mountaineers return a lot of pieces from last year's squad that finished 21-10 overall and 9-9 in conference play. Bring guys like Miles McBride, Emmitt Matthews Jr., Derek Culver, Oscar Tshiebwe, and a host of others and add in talented freshmen Jalen Bridges and Isaiah Cottrell and you have a solid roster from top to bottom.
With the virus still very much active, it could be a bit of cause for concern for players around the country and you will likely see some players opt out of this season as a precautionary measure - same thing we've seen in football. Fortunately for Huggins and his staff, there doesn't appear to be any chance of that happening with any player on this roster.
"I think our guys are of the mindset that we've got a chance to do some special things and they want to be a part of it," Huggins said. "I haven't had anybody talk about next year or anything other than this year and what we have to do to be successful this year."
The only positive coming out of all of this mess is that the NCAA will grant an extra year of eligibility to all players for those who are on roster for the 2020-21 season. West Virginia, as talented as they are, are still a fairly young team having only two seniors on the roster: guard Taz Sherman and forward Gabe Osabuohien. Huggins was asked if he felt like those two would exercise their extra year of eligibility and if he would welcome them back and he responded:
"I don't know who wouldn't take Taz [Sherman] and Gabe [Osabuhien] back if they wanted to come back. Those are the two guys that if everything was normal, those would be the guys that would finish their eligibility this year and with what's happening, they're going to have the opportunity to come back and I haven't really talked to them about it. I wouldn't know why they wouldn't do that unless they have a really big opportunity comes their way to go make a bunch of money and go play in Europe or something, but at this point I don't see that happening."
One thing that we have seen in year's past is that a team can have all the talent in the world, but if there are players with egos or the roster just doesn't mesh well together off the court, it can lead to problems on the court. Huggins doesn't see that being a problem with this group. Instead, it's quite the opposite.
"They enjoy being around each other. It's a special group I think from the standpoint that they do appreciate each other, they're friends. I mean, we have some guys that kind of hangout a little bit more together but a lot of that has to do with proximity to where they stay. We got a great group that gets along extremely well."
Having a team that has solid chemistry in addition to talented players from top the bottom sounds like a recipe for success. Could this be the year West Virginia makes it back to the Final Four for the first time since 2010? We'll find out soon.
West Virginia is scheduled to open up their season on November 25th in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Class vs Texas A&M at 2 p.m.
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