By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Proclaiming “there ain’t no rearview mirror in this truck,” West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins said goodbye to last year and turned loose the 2012-13 version of his Mountaineers in the Gold and Blue Preview before 5,120 fans at the Coliseum Friday night.
Two things were obvious from the game that was won by the Gold team that was led by Deniz Kilicli’s 26 points and 23 from Jabari Hinds over a Blue team that was led by newcomer Matt Humphrey’s 23 points, 94-80.
First, this is a totally different team from last year’s, as promised by Huggins, a team that is deep in guards, can make 3-point shots and can rebound. Second, it is a team intent on having a huge season.
“We’re in this to win,” Huggins said.
There were any number of things that would make you think they could accomplish that noticeable on this night, not the least of which was most obvious even before the team’s began playing.
Da’Sean Butler was back where he belongs, on the floor with the Mountaineers, the newest graduate assistant on Huggins’ staff, and if his winning magic can be transferred to this season’s team it could be the most important addition of the off-season.
But again, they are driving through this year without that “rearview mirror,” so it is best to see what this night showed.
To begin with you look to the guards, which was where the Mountaineers were really lacking last season.
“I like our guards,” Huggins admitted. “They’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”
And the best part, he points out, three have three years left, and two have four years.
Two players in particular looked like different players.
Hinds was a scoring machine, hitting 9 of 17 shots and canning 3 of 5 3-point shots. And Aaron Brown came on like a monster, scoring 16 points while hitting 7 of 13 shots, 2 of 6 from 3.
“Hinds was in the gym all summer,” Huggins noted, talking about his determination to make himself a shooter.
Then there were two debuts of transfers. Point guard Juwan Staten scored 14 points but took 14 shots, seeming to be a guy who never saw a shot he didn’t like. That’s not exactly what you are looking for on this team from your point guard, but he also had eight assists and only one turnover, which means you’ll excuse some of those shots.
And then there was Matt Humphrey, a much-traveled transfer who went from his home in Chicago to play at Oregon, then Boston College, then after getting his degree moving on to West Virginia for his final season of eligibility.
Humphrey is another who likes to shoot, as evidenced by the 18 he took, but they produced those 23 points. He also had three steals and a couple of assists.
On the other end of the transfer spectrum was the big man in the middle, Aaric Murray.
Not that Murray didn’t almost get a triple-double, it was just that it was a quadruple-double. Oh, the 12 points were all right, although most of them came at garbage time, including a crazy three – one of four the 6-11 center took.
And there was nothing wrong with the 12 rebounds, either.
But Murray also committed eight fouls – they hedged with the rules a little – and had six turnovers in what was a shaky debut.
Huggins wrote it off to him having a broken hand that set him back last year, the one moment on the night that Huggins found use for a rearview mirror.
The player who was hardest to recognize, though, was old standby Deniz Kilicli. Oh, his game hasn’t changed much, and if it has it has improved, for he scored 26 points and had nine rebounds.
It was just that he’s toughened up his body and showed up on the floor completely clean-shaven.
The next time the Mountaineers take the floor is for a Nov. 6 exhibition game when Joe Mazzulla returns as an assistant coach at Glenville State.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.