Problems, problems, problems cloud WVU roundball preparations

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When held on Oct. 18 as an introduction to the West Virgina basketball team, it was called the Gold and Blue Debut.

They rolled out the carpet in the Coliseum and brought on the Mountaineers. Just like in the old days when Jerry West and Hot Rod Hundley were playing and the masterful Fred Schaus was coaching.

About 5,000 people attended.

They reserved their loudest reception for Hundley, who came striding down the carpet waving with his usual enthusiasm toward those sending him waves of applause.

But then the stillness of realism crept into the building.

No carpet couldn’t hide it. No light show or loud music could camouflage it. No returning All-America guard whose retired number adorns a special place on one wall could keep the 5,000 from thinking about the oncoming 2013-14 season.

They knew last season’s team had lost their last seven games to slide away into the offseason with a 13-19 record.

They knew there were only six players returning from that much-troubled team.

They wanted to see first-hand the corps of replacements brought in to keep another losing season away from the door.

What they saw was a three-point shooting contest, a dunking contest and a short intrasquad scrimmage where one team beat the other, 41-32.

What they didn’t see were several players already missing to preseason injuries. And there was no group of nine or 10 players showing the skills and wares of real promise.

Transfer forward Remi Dibo had a knee operated on that same day and was said to be out for up to three weeks.

Much-traveled forward Elijah Macon couldn’t scrimmage because of a lingering wrist injury and a problem with a toe that kept him from running. Even if he is finally pronounced healthy enough to play, Macon’s cloudy academic status could make him ineligible for the whole season.

Transfer forward Jonathan Holton may not be eligible. He was charged with at least one felony when attending Rhode Island. That was before he went to Palm Beach State CC last year.

Holton’s status is mostly unclear. But like Macon, he might not be able to play in 2013-14.

Four of the 15 players on this year’s roster are walk-ons and are unlikely to play while any game is in doubt.

Without Dibo, Macon and Holton, who are the other eight players?

Clearly the best are two sophomore guards — Eron Harris and Terry Henderson. And neither of them is an All-America type. Both Harris and Henderson scored fewer than 10 points a game during the 13-19 season.

Opponents will all question West Virginia’s depth. Many of them will test the Mountaineers against pressure defenses.

Juwan Staten, a mercurial point guard, started more times than any of the other returning players. It’s possible the Mountaineers could start a three-guard alignment with Harris, Henderson and Staten providing the thrust toward finding the team’s way through fullcourt pressure.

Back for his third season is guard Gary Browne. Browne has scored in small numbers and his shooting accuracy has never impressed.

The only returning front court player is Kevin Noreen, another player with small scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage numbers.

Then there are the freshmen forwards. Devin Williams comes in from Montverde Academy in Florida. Brandon Watkins played for Grady High in Atlanta. And Nathian Adrian is a local product from Morgantown High.

Four immediate questions some to mind.

Who will rebound?

Who can score 14 points a game? And if Harris and Henderson do so, will they have to play all 40 minutes of every game?

Will this year’s “team defense” be any more effective than last season’s?

What will happen if opponents use fullcourt pressure defenses to wear away at the starters’ energies and force WVU reserves on to the floor?

Seven of the non-conference games are in Morgantown. Two more games are in Charleston.

The best of the non-conference opponents are Gonzaga and the team West Virginia plays in the final round of the Cancun Challenge in Mexico. That final round opponent will be either Wisconsin or St. Louis.

All the Big 12 conference opponents will come to Morgantown and the Mountaineers will return the games at all the league’s teams.

Let’s roll out the blue and gold carpet and bring on the Mountaineers. And hope some of them can do more than the 79-year-old Hot Rod Hundley could if playing this season.


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