MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Bob Huggins’ team is taking shape as college basketball’s preseason continues this month.
The Mountaineers have a handful of official practices under their belts, and in speaking with the Hall of Fame head coach and in his players, one thing is certain: practices have been physical.
A physical, winning mentality appears to be present within the Mountaineers.
Huggins spoke with the media Monday afternoon. Here are the biggest takeaways from his time with the press.
Scrapes and a broken nose
Kedrian Johnson and Erik Stevenson spoke before Huggins, and mentioned the physicality of the practices that WVU has had so far this preseason. Johnson mentioned some players have left practice with scrapes or small cuts on their arms, and there has even been a bloody nose.
The head coach confirmed the physicality.
“Actually … We had a broken, which I thought was really a good deal. No, I’m teasing, but we did have a broken nose,” Huggins said. “We’ve had one broken nose.”
Huggins called the scrapes and the changed nostril a “badge of courage.” He has always had an affinity for players who want to compete.
Not only does he see the desire to compete in practice in this group, but there is also a desire to get on the floor come game time.
“They want to play. I mean they all came here to play,” Huggins said. “And I think it’s helped the younger guys, because they’re looking around knowing that they’ve got to be competitive if they’re going to play.”
A newcomer: yes; A coach in the making: maybe
Stevenson, one of the most experienced and veteran players on this year’s WVU roster, said he would like to be a coach when his playing days are over. He even said he wants to be like his current head coach.
Asked Monday if he thinks Stevenson could be like him one day, Huggins affably said, “He doesn’t have a shot. There’s only one of me.”
Yes, there is.
Asked more specifically if Stevenson could be a coach in the future, Huggins had another great one-liner.
“He talks enough,” said The Bear.
Huggins acknowledged that Stevenson has been around, and played for, good coaches during his collegiate career. He also noted last week that Stevenson has quickly asserted himself as a leader on this team.
“He probably brings a lot of good ideas to the plate,” said Huggins.
Toughness in the paint
Back to the physicality of Huggins’ group.
The head coach has spoken highly of transfer forward Jimmy Bell Jr.
The 6-foot, 10-inch senior averaged 9.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season at Moberly Area Community College. Before playing for Moberly, he played for two years at Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
“He’s impossible to move,” Huggins said. “He’s getting better, and better, and better. I’m hoping that he ends up being like one of those big that I used to have that, when we throw it close, they’re going to score it.”
Huggins has been complimentary of Bell’s work ethic since joining the program. While it remains to be seen how that work ethic translates to production when the regular season rolls around, he’s been standing out thus far in the preseason.
“I’m sure there’s some guys somewhere that can move him, but they’re not here,” Huggins added. “He get’s the position he wants and they don’t move him.”