West Virginia ’09-10 Season Preview
Ebanks and new blood look promising.
Bobby Huggins was never recognized as a superior swimmer. (If our rivers were filled with Heineken, shit—he’d be Michael Phelps’ understudy.) Regardless, Huggins is keeping West Virginia afloat in a deep-watered Big East Ocean. Huggy reeled in a torrent of talent from the sea of recruits this off-season.
Moving with a sense of urgency in order to pad the loss of three-point sniper Alex Ruoff, Huggins penned Casey Mitchell. Mitchell left a legacy as one of the top shooters on the JuCo circuit last season, balling for Chipola Community College (FL). Huggins plucked Mitchell from the same traditional basketball breeding venue as other top stratum Big East recruits.
This Mountaineer squad has the smell of success in a Huggins make-up. Their identity runs parallel with the blueprint he’s drawn out throughout his career.
Long, athletic, and versatile forwards (see Ebanks, Devin or Butler, Da’Sean) and gritty, guile and gully guards are appealing to the masses. Ebanks, the ultra-long and versatile forward, should generate a great deal of NBA buzz after allowing league scouts to salivate more than Jerry Springer at a rub-and-tug joint last year.
The offseason certainly wasn’t a quiet one. While Huggins was scouring the land for talent, guards Joe Mazzula and Darryl “Truck” Bryant weren’t exactly having blockbuster nights back in Morgantown. 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. The kid who has made headlines both on and off the court would eventually be reinstated.
Bryant was issued a suspension for his role in a traffic accident during which he fled the scene. He was charged with four misdemeanors. Truck was also on his wheels this summer, touring with an American team—the East Coast All-Stars—that hooped throughout eastern Europe. This was after he got slapped with a suspension.
Look for Ebanks and Butler—who erupted for a 43-spot in a crucial game last year—to steer the big WVU boat into uncharted waters. This team has the potent lineup, athleticism and versatility to go the farthest in the tournament since the Kevin Pittsnogle-Mike Gansey team of 2005 and 2006.
Don’t be surprised if Ebanks or Butler vault to the periphery of the Player of The Year race, either.
Da’Sean Butler | 6-7 | G/F | Senior
Should fill the leadership void left by Ruoff. Despite a late-season shooting slump, Butler’s offensive pace dropped jaws. 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 | Sophomore
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. Don’t look now, but DE could be on the verge of surefire stardom following a break-out final 10 games last season.
Kevin Jones | 6-8 | F | Sophomore
Jones made immediate contributions last season and the Mount Vernon, NY product is a presence on the boards who can score in a variety of ways.
Darryl “Truck” Bryant | 6-2 | G | Sophomore
Truck 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 | RS Junior
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 many a times. He just needs to learn how to channel that toughness on the court and not run around like he’s Tony Fucking Montana off it.
Wellington Smith |6-7 | F | Senior
Simply put, Smith is oozing of potential as a Huggins-style forward; Smith has yet to put it together. Smith will add key depth in his senior season.
John Flowers | 6-7 | F | Junior
Rumored to be transferring at times this summer, Flowers quickly squashed the hearsay. He’s staying put, embracing his role as another typical Huggins forward with size and athletic ability. Look for J. Flowers to hit the boards and defend, playing hard.
Deniz Kilicli | 6-9 | F | Freshman
This behemoth 260-pound forward provides much-needed manpower in the post.
Danny Jennings | 6-8 | F | Freshman
Staten Island native provides Huggy Bear with another jumbo, skilled forward who can attack the basket and change shots.
Dalton Pepper | 6-5 | G | Freshman
Sharpshooter from Pennsbury High should help cushion the loss of the aforementioned sniper Ruoff.
Casey Mitchell | 6-4 | G/F | Junior
One of the top shooters on the JuCo circuit, Mitchell brought out the ratchet at perennial power Chipola Community College (FL). Mitchell should also fill the outside shooting void left by Ruoff.
Zach Smart has written for Big East Basketball Report, Hoops Addict and The East Coast Bias. Read more on his blog.