Saturday, August 22, 2009

WVU Summer Update: PG NEEDED?

You may have witnessed the “Point Guard Needed” advertisement on Craigslist.com, located under the “Labor Gigs” category.

I think Bob Huggins and the West Virginia coaching staff posted that one.

Following the arrest of Joe Mazzula and the suspension of sophomore Darryl “Truck” Bryant, Huggins has a major decision cooking on his front stove. He could have the issue resolved as early as the fall.

Mazzula was arrested on charges of domestic battery in the spring. He was excused from the team almost immediately as it was his second arrest in less than 12 months.

Bryant was issued a suspension for his role in a traffic accident during which he fled the scene. He was charged with four misdemeanors.


Huggins, however, is not pushing the panic button on the point guard situation. While both players are suspended indefinitely, Mazzulla continues to work out with WVU trainers as he rehabs from a shoulder injury that forced him to take a medical redshirt last season and Bryant toured with an American team in eastern Europe called the East Coast All-Stars since the suspension. Expect both to be reinstated in time for the real games come November, afterall, the excess roster spots were cleared since the suspensions with ‘Dee’ Proby and Will Thomas leaving the program to make room for the four incoming freshmen.

If he has to play a man down he’s comfortable with Devin Ebanks–an extremely versatile forward–or Da’Sean Butler, running the show and acting as the team’s playmakers.

Nothing is etched in stone yet.

“We could literally play Devin at point guard and he would know where everybody is,” Huggins told FoxSports.com earlier this summer.

There are various other options.

Johnnie West, who dribbles with two left feet and sticks two his 3-point shooting beat, could be a last resort.

Speaking of 3-point shooting, Huggins and company will certainly miss the services of Alex Ruoff, a sharpshooting guard who had a commendable four-year stay.

The ‘Eers return one of the top talents in the conference in Butler, a prolific scorer who will shoulder the burden of leader his senior year.

Butler, and Ebanks, could surface as a Big East Player of the Year candidates.

KEY LOSSES:

Alex Ruoff, 6-4 G: WVU will certainly miss Ruoff’s sharpshooting and proclivity for draining big treys. Ruoff played with a moxie beyond his years while leading a fresh-faced nucleus. Ruoff concluded his time at WVU–one that saw him wrestle for playing time during the Kevin Pittsnogle-Mike Gansey glory days–in memorable fashion. He carved his name in the program record book, shattering Pittsnogle’s record for all-time 3-pointers with 261 career treys.

KEY RETURNERS:

Da’Sean Butler, 6-7 G-F: Should fill the leadership void left by Ruoff. Despite a late-season shooting slump, Butler’s offensive pace made waves this season. The former Bloomfield Tech (N.J.) standout averaged a team-high 17.1 points last year, highlighted by a 43-point eruption against Villanova. Butler averaged 18 points in conference play, fifth in the Big East.

Devin Ebanks, 6-9 G-F: Ebanks, a versatile and wiry forward with long arms and freakish athletic gifts, led a potent freshmen triumvirate that accounted for 37 percent of the team’s scoring and 39 percent of the boardwork. A Big East All-Freshmen team selection, Ebanks averaged 10.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He had plenty of silver linings. A 22-point outburst and another wowing 18-board showing speak to this. Few forwards in the country can shoot, dish, and handle the way this 6-foot-9 young gun can. Could be on the verge of stardom following a break-out final 10 games last season.

Kevin Jones, 6-8 F: Jones made immediate contributions last season and the Mount Vernon, N.Y. product is a presence on the boards who can score in a variety of ways.

Darryl “Truck” Bryant, 6-2 G: Assuming Bryant is ready to go at the season’s start, he will once again assume the floor general chores and deliver pinpoint passes. Albeit he had a yoyo freshman season, Bryant went off for 21 points in West Virginia’s first round flameout in the NCAA tournament. If the truck gets his license renewed, consistency is a must.

Joe Mazzula, 6-2 G: The oft-injured guard is still rehabbing, but if eligible he can make an impact in the backcourt. His run-ins with authority and baggage, his calling card since his high school days in Rhode Island, need to be kept at a bare minimum. When Huggins refers to a player as one of the toughest he has coached, that gets attention, and Mazzulla has been classified as that by the veteran coach on several occassions.

Wellington Smith, 6′7 F: Oozing of potential as a Huggins-style forward, Smith has yet to put it together. Will add key depth in his senior season.

John Flowers, 6′7 F: Another typical Huggins forward with size and athletic ability. Will hit the boards and defend, playing hard.

KEY NEWCOMERS:

Deniz Kilicli, 6-9 F: Behemoth 260-pound forward provides much-needed manpower in the post.

Danny Jennings, 6-8 F: Another jumbo, skilled forward who can attack the basket and change shots.

Dalton Pepper, 6-5 G: Sharpshooter from Pennsbury High should help cushion the loss of the aforementioned sniper Ruoff.

Casey Mitchell, 6-4 F: One of the top shooters on the JUCO circuit, Mitchell brought out the ratchet at perennial power Chipola Community College (Fla.). Mitchell should also fill the outside shooting void left by Ruoff.