By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
A year ago the West Virginia men’s basketball team was lacking in a number of areas, but none more than a rebounding, shot-blocking big man.
The man they needed was on campus. He just wasn’t eligible or physically capable of playing.
Aaric Murray was a 6-foot, 10-inch athletic center who had transferred from LaSalle, where he was second team All-Philadelphia Big 5 after ranking second all-time in career blocks at the school with 143, getting 73 of them as a sophomore, second most in school history.
He also led LaSalle in scoring at 15.2 points a game and rebounding with 7.7 a game, but as a transfer he was ineligible and, besides, he suffered a broken hand at WVU and missed a great deal of work, leaving him behind as this camp opened.
But now he’s ready to make up for lost time.
“It makes it more exciting to play after sitting out a year. It got me motivated and made me like basketball more,” he said.
That was a good thing because as with many big men, he is a bit complex, a big city kid who last year got himself arrested for marijuana use on a return trip to Philadelphia but who is eager to get it all together and make a positive impression in the two years he has remaining.
Indeed, Morgantown is a small town, different that playing in a big city with professional teams and even more dominant college teams.
“The fans here love you. The whole town loves you. Everywhere you go it’s the WVU logo. In Philly it’s Villanova, St. Joe’s, Temple. It’s all WVU here and everyone supports you,” he said.
In truth, you become a centerpiece in Morgantown.
“Most people didn’t know I played basketball in Philly. That’s why it was easy to walk around and get in trouble. Here there’s too many people watching you for you to mess up doing something stupid,” he said.
Being 6-10 makes you even more conspicuous, sometimes that being a positive, sometimes a negative.
“It’s easy to score the ball and block shots but the negatives are you are always in magnifying glass,” he admitted.
And, of course, there are off-court problems, too.
“The shower heads are too low, the beds are too short,” he said.
Right now Murray is just getting accustomed to his role, which is still being defined on the court. In the earlier scrimmage for much of the year he did seem lost, but coach Bob Huggins is working with him … and that goes a lot of ways.
Like so many before him, the Huggins he plays for as a player is a different Huggins than the one who recruited him.
“He wasn’t the same person he was when he was recruiting me, but …,” he said.
That was Mr. Nice Guy, the recruiter. The coach pushes and prods and demands perfection and sometimes a player might wonder what he has gotten himself into.
“You don’t think you made the wrong decision,” Murray said. “You can’t quit, because if any of the NBA scouts ask if you work hard, this is a person you need to vouch for you. If you can work hard for Bob Huggins, you can work anywhere.”
He has become a fan of Huggins’ coaching style.
“Just knowing who he is, what he wants. He wants us to be successful on and off the court. He don’t care how talented you are. If you don’t do what he wants you to do, you will sit on the bench,” he said.
And he did not come to West Virginia to sit on the bench.
“I just want to take advantage of the situation I am in,” he said. “It was pretty frustrating, sitting out last year and I wasn’t able to practice and get better. That took out six or seven months I could work on getting better.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.