2008-2009 WEST VIRGINIA SNAPSHOT
June 17, 2008
Head Coach: Bob Huggins
2007-2008 Record: 26-11 (11-7 Big East) NCAA Sweet 16
Alex Ruoff, Senior (Guard)
Da'Sean Butler, Junior (Guard)
Joe Mazzulla, Junior (Guard)
Wellington Smith, Junior (Forward)
Jonnie West, Sophomore (Guard)
Cam Thoroughman, Sophomore (Forward)
John Flowers, Sophomore (Forward)
Will Thomas, Sophomore (Guard)
Devin Ebanks, Forward
Darryl Bryant, Guard
Kevin Jones, Forward
Darris Nichols, Senior (Point Guard)
Jamie Smalligan, Senior (Center)
Early NBA Declaration:
Joe Alexander, Junior (Forward)
West Virginia has been in the news a lot this spring. Bob Huggins was able to secure a commitment from Devin Ebanks, one of the top recruits in the nation in the 2008 class. Ebanks had backed out of a prior commitment to Indiana when Kelvin Sampson was terminated for repeated NCAA recruiting violations.
Ebanks probably saw the writing on the wall with Joe Alexander and the NBA. The 6'8 WVU junior forward is now projected to be a lottery pick in the 2008 draft and decided to leave the Mountaineer program with one year of eligibility and cash in his lottery ticket.
West Virginia also is awaiting the final outcome of recruit Roscoe Davis to find out if he will be part of the 2008 class or the 2009 class. Reports of late seem to indicate he will return to Hargrave Military Academy for another year of prep school. However, with the NBA draft beckoning Alexander and Gus Gilchrist recently opting for South Florida, Davis could try more summer classes in hopes of qualifying for 2008, the Mountaineers have two scholarships open and Bob Huggins has been determined to add additional size to the line-up. Davis might not be a post player, but his 6'10 frame would help a team greatly that has nobody taller than 6'8.
Joe Alexander leaving for the NBA and the graduation of Darris Nichols will definitely knock the Mountaineers back a peg or two this season. Nichols will be replaced by Joe Mazzulla, a player that Bob Huggins absolutely adores and the point guard position should be adequately addressed. Depth, though, in the back court is really thin. Shooting ace Alex Ruoff returns to the off-guard position and they will likely need seldom-used sophomores Will Thomas and Jonnie West to step up greatly this season. Incoming recruit Darryl 'Truck' Bryant brings the standard NYC toughness, ala his nickname, but he will have a learning curve ahead of him as he attempts to learn the point position full-time.
Alexander's loss is a tough one to overcome. His versatility allowed him to play much bigger on the boards and the strides he made last season with his toughness under Huggins was tremendous. Working to put himself in position to score in the Big East was what allowed his game to soar down the stretch. While Devin Ebanks has a lot of similar traits and at 6'8, he has the makings of an inside-out threat, it will be a little while before he plays defense, hits the boards and works to get in quality position to score like Alexander learned to do. The natural talent of Ebanks is tremendous and his potential is much higher, but it will take some time for him to hit that stride.
Actually, WVU has several players in the mold of Alexander and do not be surprised to see John Flowers pick up a lot of the slack with his inside-out abilities and a year under Huggins will help his game a lot. Wellington Smith also has those inside-out skills and is a player coach Huggins expects a lot from. It will be a key year for him to step up or be passed by with the newcomers. Another high-profile incoming recruit, Kevin Jones, will also play a key role on the boards and on defense at the forward position. Look for Jones to be a tremendous college forward who will be solid early on. Cam Thoroughman will add some toughness and is willing to do the dirty work off the bench.
At small forward, Da'Sean Butler returns and is one of the more well-rounded players in the Big East. If he would be a little more selfish with his own offense, he could be one of the league's top breakout performers this season.
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All in all this is a very good West Virginia team. Breaking in a new full-time point guard with limited depth is a concern, especially since neither Mazzulla nor Bryant have been full-time true point guards in the past. The lack of size is a little bothersome, but Bob Huggins has been able to get by in the past with smaller teams that rely on toughness and athleticism. Little by little, this West Virginia program is morphing into a similar make-up of his past teams at previous schools. With a tremendous home court advantage and a mix of veterans and exciting athletic youngsters, look for West Virginia to be in the NCAA Tournament mix, albeit, a notch below the top contenders of the Big East at this point.