College basketball has gradually become a sport where players and offenses of yesteryear have been placed on a list of endangered species.
Large centers — those of 6-foot-10, 300-pound proportions — are quickly going the way of the baby hook shot, 20 rebounds-a-game player, and those individuals making 80 percent of their free throws.
The true centers of the past are all but gone in today’s college game.
There are still 7-footers. But they can be stationed on the perimeter where they fire away from 20-feet, or take off running the floor as if they were 6-foot-8, and they don’t often swat opponent’s shots into the theater-styled seats.
Seven-footers are a common, garden-variety type player. But they don’t occupy space close to the basket. And they aren’t the focal point of a team’s half-court offense.
Teams don’t want a plodding, draft-horse player whose only effect on a game is the number of fouls he commits.
Teams want an athletic player with reasonable quickness and agility . . . and the gifts to run some and jump some and play well in a fast-paced tempo.
West Virginia has 6-foot-10, 245-pound Volodymyr Gerun in waiting. Gerun can run and not plod. He can move to the basket and score. He can catch well and pass well and he has an idea of what is going on around him.
Gerun is a product of foreign teachings. He’s from the Ukraine in Eastern Europe. And Europeans are well known for less-than-physical basketball that features long-range shooting and not too much banging of bodies.
Gerun is a little different. He does bang bodies. He does hover around the lane and challenge others when they attempt to score. An he can score inside with something other than a jump shot, stand-still layup, or dunk over a 6-footer.
Gerun and Aaric Murray (also 6-foot-10 and about 245-pounds) could be paired to give West Virginia some inside sinew and strength.
The NCAA has ruled Gerun has to miss the season’s first six games as its penalty for his playing against professionals while in Europe.
His first collegiate game is scheduled to be on Dec. 8 against Virginia Tech. Until then, he can practice and scrimmage and do what the others with no experience against Europeans are allowed.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has smaller players just as athletic as Gerun. And he lets them fend for themselves. If Huggins uses a half-court zone defense, Gerun could be a long-limbed piece that slows the opponent’s tempo and troubles them with his movement.
The sophomore has three more years to play.
His debut has been delayed by the NCAA.
West Virginia has never been blessed with much useful depth. Even if Gerun is a non-starter, his presence means Deniz Kilicli can be ineffective and Murray could be in foul trouble and the Mountaineers could still manage to win.
He won’t be bringing a national championship to Morgantown. He won’t be bringing a Big 12 championship this year or next.
But Gerun could help bring the Mountaineers another NCAA tournament bid.