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Current WVU Basketball Players Draw Favorable Comparisons to Former Huggins Standouts



(photo: Dale Sparks/WVU Athletic Communications)

Bob Huggins’ coaching career has been defined by taking traditionally overlooked programs and turning them into legitimate contenders. From Akron to Cincinnati and finally West Virginia, Huggins’ career has been highlighted by his teams making unlikely tournament runs. One similarity between all of those runs has been the memorable players Huggins made them with.

With this year’s Mountaineer team again looking promising and capable of making a deep run in the tournament, Huggins has talked about some of this season’s team reminding him of players past.

Because of recency, the most common comparison made for this season’s team has been sophomore point guard Miles “Deuce” McBride being compared to WVU’s last great point guard, Jevon Carter. When asked about it, Huggins said the two have some similarities, but that Carter was a much different player than McBride is at this point in his career.

“Deuce is, at the same point [in their careers], a lot more skilled than JC was,” Huggins said. “JC was just the hardest-playing, most competitive dude. Deuce is very competitive as well, but from an offensive standpoint I think Deuce is ahead of JC and I think JC was ahead of Deuce defensively. Even when JC was a freshman we put him on the best people.”

Carter’s days as a Mountaineer are mostly remembered as the face of those defense-first “Press Virginia” teams. However, by the end of his college career, Carter was a legitimate two-way standout, averaging 17.3 points per game as a senior. For comparison, Carter averaged 8.8 points per game in his first two seasons with WVU. McBride’s current career average is 12.2 and his average in his second season is already 16.3.

The best way to compare Carter and McBride might not be in terms of their stats and skills, but instead how much they both improved. Carter shot 31% from 3-point range his first two seasons in Morgantown. That improved to 38.9 percent as a junior and 39.3 as a senior. Likewise, McBride shot 30.4% from three as a freshman and has improved that to 44.6% this season.

A team is never just one player, however, and WVU’s other guards this season, Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil, have also drawn comparisons from Huggins. On who his best group of guards ever was, Huggins could not decide.

“I think the guards that we had with JC, [Daxter Miles Jr.] and Tarik [Phillip] and Teyvon [Myers], those guys could score the ball, they could all score the ball,” Huggins said. “But how about [Nick] Van Exel and [Anthony] Buford [at Cincinnati]? Two pros and one of them was an NBA All-Star.”

Phillip and Myers are especially comparable to Sherman and McNeil, given that all four joined West Virginia from the ranks of junior college. Phillip and Myers averaged 4.1 and 2.4 points per game, respectively, during their first seasons as Mountaineers. They both improved upon those numbers, with Phillip averaging over nine points per game in his final two seasons and Myers averaging 5.4 in his final season.

Similarly, both Sherman and McNeil have made jumps since first arriving in Morgantown. They both averaged just over five points per game last season and have jumped up to 12.6 points per game for Sherman and 11.6 for McNeil.

McNeil has also drawn some comparisons from outside the WVU program, with ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla likening him to former West Virginia sharpshooter Alex Ruoff.

Ruoff averaged more than 2.5 made 3-pointers per game in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and McNeil is right around there this season, averaging 2.3.

Finally, Huggins has found a comparison for a player who seems wholly unique, defensive stalwart Gabe Osabuohien. Huggins has drawn a direct comparison between Osabuohien and former Mountaineer Cam Thoroughman.

“I think [Gabe’s] along those lines of what Cam gave us,” Huggins said. “Cam gave us a 6-foot-6 center who guarded everybody. When you think about the people who he guarded in the Big East, at 6-foot-6, he did a terrific job.”

Thoroughman’s career-high for scoring in a season came as a senior when he averaged a paltry 2.7 points per game. Thoroughman actually averaged less than two shot attempts per game, and yet he played 20 minutes per game in 2010-11. Osabuohien actually scores less, averaging 1.8 points and just 1.6 shots per game this season, and yet Huggins plays him enough to average more than 18 minutes.

“A lot of times I’ve had guys like that and the great thing is they’re unselfish,” Huggins said. “You’re not worried about somebody jacking up eight shots when those shots should be going to the other guys.”

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