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October 9, 2013

Mountaineers coming together

West Virginia's basketball team is in the midst of pre-season practice but there are still questions over whether junior college transfer Jonathan Holton will be playing this season.

Holton is enrolled in school but at this point there has been no decision whether he will be able to suit up for the Mountaineers this fall. Head coach Bob Huggins had hoped to receive some clarity on the situation last week, but he still remains in the dark on the status of the former Rhode Island standout.

"I don't know any more than I did last week. It's out of my control," he said.

Huggins would not elaborate further on the issue but did say that it will be an instance where he will either be able to play or will redshirt this season, although that decision has yet to be made. If he does have to redshirt, Holton would have two years to play two.

Regardless if Holton is able to play this season or not, Huggins is dealing with a very inexperienced front line with only Kevin Noreen returning from last season's team. The Mountaineers will be depending on many new faces including junior college transfer Remi Dibo and a trio of freshmen in Devin Williams, Nathan Adrian and Brandon Watkins.

"Our inside guys obviously have a lot to learn … they've been coachable, they listen they're trying and they're going to get there," Huggins said. "It's hard when you don't have the background to do things we want to get done."

Noreen has shown much more confidence through the early stages of practice, especially on the offensive end where he has spent a lot of time shooting the ball and adjusting his mechanics.

"Shoot when he's open," Huggins said of the big man.

The head coach said that getting the offense to where it has been in the past will be hard with so many new guys inside, but as they continue to gain experience they will understand more of what the coaching staff wants them to do.

Out of the entire group, it's been Adrian that has made the biggest strides thus far especially with his ability to shoot the ball, Huggins said.

On the flip side, the Mountaineers return plenty of experience in the backcourt with Eron Harris, Terry Henderson, Juwan Staten and Gary Browne all back from a season ago. Although only sophomores, both Henderson and Harris have developed into leaders for the Mountaineers, something that was one of the major failures with the team a season ago.

Both Staten and Browne have worked hard in the off-season to better prepare them for this year after disappointing seasons for both players in 2012. Huggins has said that both players have stepped up and helped to solidify the backcourt in the early stages of practice, and each of them have taken responsibility for last season and looked for ways to improve.

Not surprisingly through the early stages the defense is ahead of the offense, but Huggins has seen the offense play better in recent days. West Virginia will hold the gold-blue scrimmage game Oct. 18, while they will open the season Nov. 4 in an exhibition game against Fairmont State.

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